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Selling Science

Selling Science: Polio and the Promise of Gamma Globulin

Stephen E. Mawdsley
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Selling Science
    Book Description:

    Today, when many parents seem reluctant to have their children vaccinated, even with long proven medications, the Salk vaccine trial, which enrolled millions of healthy children to test an unproven medical intervention, seems nothing short of astonishing. InSelling Science, medical historian Stephen E. Mawdsley recounts the untold story of the first large clinical trial to control polio using healthy children-55,000 healthy children-revealing how this long-forgotten incident cleared the path for Salk's later trial.

    Mawdsley describes how, in the early 1950s, Dr. William Hammon and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis launched a pioneering medical experiment on a previously untried scale. Conducted on over 55,000 healthy children in Texas, Utah, Iowa, and Nebraska, this landmark study assessed the safety and effectiveness of a blood component, gamma globulin, to prevent paralytic polio. The value of the proposed experiment was questioned by many prominent health professionals as it harbored potential health risks, but as Mawdsley points out, compromise and coercion moved it forward. And though the trial returned dubious results, it was presented to the public as a triumph and used to justify a federally sanctioned mass immunization study on thousands of families between 1953 and 1954. Indeed, the concept, conduct, and outcome of the GG study weresoldto health professionals, medical researchers, and the public at each stage. At a time when most Americans trusted scientists, their mutual encounter under the auspices of conquering disease was shaped by politics, marketing, and at times, deception.

    Drawing on oral history interviews, medical journals, newspapers, meeting minutes, and private institutional records,Selling Sciencesheds light on the ethics of scientific conduct, and on the power of marketing to shape public opinion about medical experimentation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-7441-7
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology, Health Sciences, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction (pp. 1-13)

    “There could be almost complete confidence that, if and when a [polio] vaccine [was] developed, the American people would back the scientific trials necessary to test its effectiveness.”¹ This assertion was penned in 1956, at a time when the eradication of the fearsome disease, polio, was well under way. Funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), the vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and evaluated in a massive 1954 clinical trial was found to be safe and effective.² Such characterizations of public support for human medical experimentation were evidently assumed and linked to earlier developments. What had come...

  7. Chapter 1 Forging Momentum (pp. 14-31)

    In the closing days of World War II, the rural Catholic orphanage of Saint Vincent’s near Freeport, Illinois, was mobilized for a medical experiment. A polio outbreak had taken hold in the facility, and there were many cases of paralysis. On the morning of August 26, 1945, a team of public health officers and scientific consultants arrived at Saint Vincent’s, seeking to control the outbreak by injecting a human blood fraction as part of a clinical trial.¹ That afternoon, Saint Vincent’s staff divided the young residents along age and gender lines in preparation for injections. An efficient, assembly-line approach characterized...

  8. Chapter 2 Building Consent for a Clinical Trial (pp. 32-52)

    “The thing I am getting to is if you start out and do this in an open population all hell is going to break loose and you know that just as well as I do,” Dr. Joseph E. Smadel, chief of the Department of Virus and Rickettsial Diseases with the U.S. Army Service Graduate School, cautioned Dr. William McD. Hammon in February 1950.¹ Although Hammon had supporters, he also faced criticism and setbacks that would require the support of the NFIP to ensure his study could be brought to an open population. Divisions in the scientific community and evidence of...

  9. Chapter 3 Marketing and Mobilization (pp. 53-75)

    “I am sure you are equally appreciative of the potential dangers if this whole field trial is not handled in the best possible way,” National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) medical director Dr. Hart Van Riper reminded Basil O’Connor in June 1951.¹ While the Committee on Immunization had given its support for the gamma globulin (GG) pilot study, the NFIP was clearly aware of its role in seeing the study come to fruition, and Van Riper was anxious about the next step: how to sell it to the American public.² Such an endeavor would not be simple, since a large...

  10. Chapter 4 The Pilot Study (pp. 76-97)

    At a press conference announcing the gamma globulin (GG) pilot study in Utah County, four-year-old Kristine Hammond was volunteered by her physician-father, Dr. Roy Hammond, to be the first child recipient of the test serums. Kristine’s photograph, showing her wearing a crisp, pleated dress, with her hair in curls and looking up into the face of Dr. William McD. Hammon, sent a clear message that the pilot study was an important event overseen by responsible researchers.¹ TheProvo Daily Heraldran a feature showing Roy Hammond seated with his daughter, implying both parental and professional approval.² These buoyant visual characterizations...

  11. Chapter 5 Operation Marbles and Lollipops (pp. 98-121)

    As a polio epidemic swept across Iowa in July 1952, Colonel John A. Carey, commander of the 79th U.S. Air Force Squadron based in Sioux City, learned of a field trial being conducted by Dr. William McD. Hammon to assess whether gamma globulin (GG) could curtail the epidemic and protect youngsters from paralysis. The squadron was not immune to the ravages of the outbreak; indeed, Airman Eldon O. Paul was admitted to nearby Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital with evidence of paralysis.¹ Although charged with preparing air crews for deployment in the fight against communism in Korea, Colonel Carey perhaps considered...

  12. Chapter 6 The National Experiment (pp. 122-142)

    In August 1953, mere days before a summer camp near Livingston Manor, New York, was set to close for the summer, polio struck a sixteen-year-old resident. Worried parents collected their children and set about locating the much-touted liquid gold of polio prevention: gamma globulin (GG). When parents learned that GG supplies in New York State were “practically exhausted,” they lay siege to the city health department. Led by Hyman Zarett, a real estate executive from Queens, the crowd of parents demanded answers as to why there was “such a shortage” of GG and requested the immediate release of supplementary supplies....

  13. Notes (pp. 143-184)
  14. Bibliography (pp. 185-206)
  15. Index (pp. 207-210)
  16. Back Matter (pp. 211-216)