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Three cheers for Canadian scientists

The Story


News of of Dr. Jonas Salk's successful vaccine is celebrated worldwide. In Canada, Health Minister Paul Martin Sr., himself a polio victim, is one of the first to congratulate Dr. Jonas Salk. Martin is also quick to acknowledge significant contributions made at University of Toronto's Connaught Laboratories. In 1952, Canadian scientists discover medium-199, a first-ever synthetic solution to grow the polio virus. They also develop the Toronto Method. The Toronto Method allows the growth of the polio virus in bulk by incubating the medium-199 substance in large rocking bottles. These two contributions allow Salk to produce enough polio virus for experiments and more importantly, to make vaccine production practical. Unfortunately disaster strikes just weeks after Salk's historic announcement. A bad batch of the vaccine produced by the Cutter Laboratories in California infects 80 people with polio in the U.S. Eleven of the infected eventually die.As a result of the Cutter crisis, the U.S. government temporarily halts all vaccination. Here in Canada, Paul Martin is under tremendous pressure to follow suit. However Martin makes a historic decision to proceed with the vaccination. His decision is largely influenced by his faith in the scientists at Connaught Labs, his own battle with polio and the fact his son Paul Martin Jr. also suffers from polio. It's a gamble that pays off.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: April 17, 1955
Guest(s): Paul Martin Sr.
Duration: 5:34

Did You know?


• Canada led the world in using the Salk vaccine. The last major outbreak of polio in Canada was in 1959.

• There were isolated outbreaks of polio in the 1970s in Netherlands due to religious groups rejecting vaccination. These victims brought polio to Canada where a handful of cases were reported.

• There is still no cure for polio.

• By 1964 polio was officially eradicated in North America. But according to UNICEF (2002), Polio continues to maintain a stronghold in India, Pakistan, Afgahnistan, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola and Egypt.


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