Since this has been an annual trip for so many years, I really am at a loss as to what to say or write about this fine American city. Our dear friends are in Italy, so I will not be visiting them. And a few folks from back home will be around for a few beers and laughs. Mostly, I am here for the Giants short two game series against the Padres.
The trip is a little different, in that I am flying down from home, rather than driving. I am staying in the Gaslamp area, using public transportation, and walking most everywhere, once I land. When we drive, we usually head out of the city for shopping, wine tasting, beaches, and other points of interest.
I have listed the famous people from San Diego previously, many times. But one in particular stands out to me, Dr. Jonas Salk. From his biography: “Jonas Salk was born October 28, 1914, in New York City. In 1942 at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, he became part of a group that was working to develop a vaccine against the flu. In 1947 he became head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. At Pittsburgh he began research on polio. On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was released for use in the United States. He established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in 1963. Salk died in 1995.”
Most of you reading this are much younger, and perhaps do not recall the period around 1955. The polio vaccine developed by Dr. Salk was approved for general use. President Eisenhower gave him a special citation at a ceremony held in the Rose Garden at the White House. And of course, President Franklin Roosevelt had contracted polio in 1921, while on a summer vacation on Campobello Island, his summer vacation home. He also helped crate the “March of Dimes Foundation” that became the primary funding source for Salk’s studies and vaccine trials.
But what makes this most memorable is that we received the vaccine at school. Back in 1955, I would have been about 9 years old, and attending Lincoln Elementary School in Kingsburg, in the 3rd or 4th grade. I can recall lining up like we did for lunch, alphabetically, of course. We marched over to the cafeteria/multi-purpose room for our shots. This was before the oral vaccine was available.
Obviously, there was no controversy about vaccinating children, much less at school. There was no choice. And for the most part, polio became an afterthought on the American health scene. Despite this, I found out later that several of my classmates actually contracted polio prior to this period. In 1952, there were 57,000 cases of polio. The number dropped to less than a thousand a decade later.
Thankfully, the oral vaccine came along about a decade later (1962), when the live virus replaced Salk’s vaccine. Dr. Albert Sabin developed the oral vaccine, which was both less expensive and easier to use. A drop of vaccine was placed on a sugar cube. What a great idea! By the way, Sabin and Salk were rivals as you might expect.
People probably don’t know that, in 1952, Salk tested the vaccine on himself, his wife, and his three children. He actually boiled the needles and syringes on his kitchen stovetop! And to his credit, he did not feel justified in patenting the vaccine, since much of the studies were publicly funded.
Salk went on to establish the Salk Center for Biological Studies in 1963. He went on to study both multiple sclerosis and cancer. He moved on later to HIV and AIDS. He died of heart failure in 1995 in La Jolla. But he will always be remembered as the man who stopped polio!!
So, while I am here for baseball, I try to remember hat the area is known for great scientific breakthroughs in the biological sciences. Now they need to control the Hepatitis outbreak here. The homeless situation here is staggering!! The weather is too good, and the streets are too friendly.