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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Fifty Years Ago

Fifty Years Ago

GRHC - September 23rd, 2013

The "Knockout Polio" drive began in September of 1963. Approximately 320,000 people in Kent County participated, 86% of the population, and took the two drops of vaccine placed on a sugar cube.


Six polio cases had already been reported in Kent County between August and September of 1963 when the “Knockout Polio” drive began. Sixty-eight vaccine stations were set up at schools, churches, and a few businesses throughout Kent County. Members of the Grand Valley 11-Meter Club offered free rides in their radio-equipped cars, which took people to the clinics and returned them home.

Vaccine was free for everyone under age 18. Adults could contribute 25 cents to help reimburse the National Foundation, which underwrote the cost of adult vaccine, but no one was turned away. Two drops of vaccine were placed on a sugar cube, which could be swallowed with water, soft drinks, or taken plain. It was stressed that everyone over 2 months of age take the vaccine, whether or not they had already been vaccinated with the injected Salk Vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. The oral vaccine would prevent people from being carriers of the disease; the Salk vaccine did not. Two more vaccine days were scheduled, about six-weeks apart, to cover Type Two and Type Three polio, also killers and cripplers.

The Saturday turnout for “Knockout Polio” was tremendous. Approximately 320,000 people participated, which was 86% of the county’s estimated population of 370,000. Voluntary contributions and donations from adults, who had been asked to contribute 25 cents, totaled approximately $60,000, and required two police cruisers to move the moneybags to area banks.



Full Details

TitleFifty Years Ago
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; Polio; Salk Vaccine
Pubdate StringSeptember 23rd, 2013

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