My Polio Vaccines

One of the interesting things I found while helping my father downsize for a move was this copy of my polio vaccinations.  

Currently, children are vaccinated for polio four times spread out from the time they are eight weeks old till they are four years old.  

So why did I receive only three vaccinations and all within a few months of each other in 1957 when I turned four?

Dr Jonas Salk administering a vaccine

That’s because the polio vaccine was only discovered by Jonas Salk in 1953, the year I was born.  The vaccine needed to be tested and it was only in April of 1955 that the government approved the administration of the vaccination to all six to nine-year-olds. I wasn’t old enough to get it then.

Between 1949 and 1954 nearly 11,000 people in Canada were left paralyzed by polio. In 1953, the year I was born there were nearly 9,000 cases and some 500 deaths in Canada.

People with polio in iron lungs

The incidence of polio in Winnipeg in 1953 set a world record.  Close to a hundred people in the city were in iron lungs because their breathing muscles were paralyzed. The 1953 epidemic was the most serious the country had experienced since the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. 

By 1956 it was clear children who had received the polio vaccine in 1955 were much less likely to get polio or experience paralysis than those who hadn’t been vaccinated.  Although not every province decided to go ahead with vaccinating more children, thankfully the province of Manitoba did as the official notice above indicates.

Photo from the Manitoba archives showing St. Matthews Church where I had my vaccinations

That’s why in 1957 at age four I received the potentially life-saving vaccine. My mother had to take me to the St. Matthew’s Church in Winnipeg for the shots.

This photo was taken at Easter in 1957 the year my sister and I had our first polio vaccinations

I am sure my sister who was sixteen months younger was also vaccinated.

I just read recently that thanks largely to the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation polio is now on the verge of being eradicated throughout the world. 

Other posts…….

The Pandemic Story Behind A 105-Year-Old Photo

Vaccinations Aren’t Just For Babies




Filed under Childhood, Family, Health, Winnipeg

2 responses to “My Polio Vaccines

  1. I remember getting this in elementary school – it was a tiny drink form of the vaccine (it must have been given yearly?). We’d all line up in the hallway. I am about the same age as you are. I’m also extremely grateful this was available. (great photos, btw!)


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