Oral Polio Vaccine Namesake

Dr. Albert Sabin (1906-1993) in 1950 developed a polio vaccine that could be taken by mouth, rather than injection. Polio was a much-feared viral disease that could cause death and frequently left victims paralyzed in various parts of the body.

The oral live polio vaccine was developed as an alternative to the highly effective injected, killed polio vaccine previously developed by Jonas Salk. The oral vaccine remains in wide use today. Sabin isolated strains of each type of polio virus that were not strong enough to produce the disease themselves.  However, these strains were capable of stimulating the production of antibodies to combat the infection.  This technique led to Sabin's oral polio vaccine that won FDA approval in 1960. His work prevented an estimated 5 million cases of polio and 500,000 deaths worldwide.

Sabin began his career in biomedical research in 1926 while he was a student at New York University. He worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research briefly, and then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1939.

Apart from time serving in World War II, Sabin spent the next thirty years working at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the Children's Hospital Research Foundation. During the war, Sabin focused on exploring the many viral diseases that impacted American troops serving abroad.  As a result of this and future work, Sabin developed a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis.

In the 1960's, Sabin's oral polio vaccine was distributed to about 100 million children throughout Europe. From 1962 to 1964, the vaccine was given to about 100 million people in the U.S. It is said that in just its first two years of use, Dr. Sabin's vaccine prevented nearly 500,000 deaths and five million cases of paralytic polio.

Did You Know?

  • To honor his work, Sabin received 46 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
  • Sabin also received the United States National Medal of Science in 1970 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986.

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