Remembering Sabin Sunday - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Remembering Sabin Sunday

This is just a quick “shout out” to the late Dr. Albert Sabin as we mark the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. administration of his oral polio vaccine.

 That first administration was also the first approved clinical trail of the “live virus” vaccine in this country, held on Sunday, April 24, 1960, “Sabin Sunday.”

 Three years prior, he was invited to administer the vaccine to large groups of children in parts of Russia, Holland, Mexico, Chile, Sweden and Japan.

 But in the United States, Dr. Sabin had a hard time convincing the Poliomyelitis Foundation and the U.S. Public Health Service that his method was any better than Jonas Salk’s “killed” vaccine method.

 An obvious advantage of Dr. Sabin’s oral vaccine was ease of administration, translation: no shots!

 But two other benefits of Sabin’s vaccine were even more important to finally gaining approval for administration in the U.S.:

  • The live vaccine gives both intestinal and bodily immunity; the killed vaccine gives only bodily immunity and allows the immune person to still serve as a carrier or transmitter.
  • The Sabin vaccine produces lifelong immunity without the need for a booster shot or vaccination.

Children wait with their parents to receive the Sabin oral polio vaccine on Sabin Sunday (April 24, 1960)

 On Sabin Sunday, thousands of children gathered at Cincinnati Children’s to receive the sugar cube vaccine. By the end of the day, 20,000 children were vaccinated and had a commemorative spoon to show for it.

 Within the next two weeks, a total of 180,000 children in the Cincinnati area were immunized for life against a disease that just weeks prior was keeping kids from visiting swimming pools for fear of contracting it.

Fifty years later, Polio is virtually non-existent in the U.S. and is rare throughout the rest of the world.

 So, this week, we remember and honor the accomplishments of Dr. Sabin and thank him for his dedication to improving child health around the world. His thirty years at Cincinnati Children’s were well spent and he will be remembered as the man who made Cincinnati the first polio-free city in the U.S. and saved millions of children around the world from polio’s devastating effects.

 Do you remember receiving the oral polio vaccine as a child? If so, please comment below and share your story.

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Kate Setter

About the Author: Kate Setter

Kate manages social media at Cincinnati Children's, a role that she loves because it gives her opportunities to help families find stories and pediatric health information that they want and need. Kate is the mother of two elementary-age kiddos.

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  1. Robin O'Reilly September 18, 21:08
    Watching the Ken a Burns' special of The Roosevelt story and remembering getting the Sabine Oral Sunday .....I remember that it was a series of 3 Sundays.....I lived on Long Island, NY... The sugar cube was in a small paper med cup....the site was a local school gymnasium.....what a wonderful accomplishment for mankind!
  2. Bonnie Williams Speeg October 28, 15:50
    We stood in line at Cincinnati Children's, at the old arched front entrance. We had to stand outside, and the weather was tolerable. I wasn't afraid of this event/experience. I don't remember the year. I was maybe 8? We received injections, and younger kids cried. The shot did hurt. I felt as if I was doing some kind of civic duty...absolutely everyone was standing up for the vaccine. Seeing children partially crippled, as I did....there was no way I wouldn't have taken my own children for the vaccine; and it definitely convinced one they should take the vaccine. I owe much to Children's Pediatric Cardiac research in particular. Jonas Salk....remembered.