Mr Chairman and Honoured Guests

My name is Domokos Boda.

I was born and educated in Hungary

which is as beautiful country  in Eastern Europe.

I am paediatrician there,

and I spent my whole career working in my native land .

I want to tell you an interesting story

about how the dreaded disease…. Polio

intertwined with…. Politics in Eastern Europe

back in the 1950’s,

which was early in the course of my  own career.

Polio is a virus infection.

It is   transmitted  from person to person

by contaminated food and water.

The disease has now been eliminated

in Developed countries

by vaccination in childhood

but in the 1950’s, polio was still a scourge…

It was epidemic in Europe and North America.

Some patients had to be put on

aprimitive form of  a ventilator,

called….the Iron Lung,

to survive the early  phase of the illness,

and many patients that did survive

were left with permanent muscular paralysis.

So it was a very unpleasant affliction.

The best Cure for Polio…. is Prevention

Efforts to develop a polio vaccine

to prevent the disease

started in the United States in the early 1950s.

The Salk vaccine (Dr.Salk) arriveed in  1954.1

It was given by injection.

In 1957. there was a Polio epidemic in Hungary.

It could not have come at a worse time.

because the previous year, 1956,

was the year of the failed democratic Hungarian revolution

which was crushed when the Soviets

sent the Red Army tanks into Budapest.

20,000 died,

and our country was to remain

 behind the Iron Curtain ….of Communist control

for many more years.

And then the next year the 1957 polio epidemic.

Two very bad years in our country.

The Salk vaccine was brought into Hungary

to prevent any futher outbreak of Polio,  

but it also failed,

because there was a more severe epidemic

 in  Hungary in 1959, two years later.

So a better vaccine was needed.

Now Back In the USSR,

(by the way, the Beatles epidemic

was not to emerge in Europe

for another decade)

but back in the USSR

Dr. Mikhail  Chumakov was  head of

the Polio Research Institute in Moscow.

News had emerged that  Dr. Sabin….

a United States  immunologist

who was actually a Russian émigré to the US…

that Dr. Sabin  had developed a new and better vaccine…

given by mouth,  the Sabin vaccine.

The Soviet Dictator, Joseph Stalin

had died in 1953,

and there was now more of an opportunity

for the two countries to collaborate ….

so Dr. Chumakov visited the United States

to work with  Dr. Sabin on this new vaccine,

and in turn Sabin visited Moscow

and the two doctors worked together

to develop techniques of mass production of the vaccine.

Dr.Chumakov then came to Hungary

to try to persuade us that the Sabin vaccine

was the best weapon to prevent polio,

and after that ,   a Hungarian delegation

which included an epidemiologist, a virologist, and a paediatrician (me)

 went  to Moscow

to visit Chumakov’s  Polio Institute

to find out more about

the very exciting Sabin vaccine.

After our visit there, as protocol dictated,

we reported to the Soviet government Ministry of Health.

To our surprise from there

we were directed to a factory

that was producing  not the new Sabin vaccine,

but the old Salk vaccine.

A Soviet scientist at this factory,

tried to convince us

that the live Sabin vaccine was dangerous…. 

that it was  causing severe paralysis.

He also told  us that Dr. Chumakov

was an "imperialist’ agent,"

and that Chumakov’s  aim was

to eliminate the whole Soviet population

so there was a certain paranoia still around

at that time, even though  Mr. Stalin

had been dead for 6 years.

In Russia at that time

all decisions came from the decree

of a Central Party Committee,

so Chumakov had problems promoting the new vaccine.

However, he had a certain  status:

he was as a member of the Soviet Academy,

and his father-in-law was  a Soviet war hero,

so he did get permission

to test the vaccine in a few Russian children.

The results of the tests were good

but  Chumakov still was not allowed

to do large scale immunisation in Russia.

So being a resource chap,

he went to the Baltic Republics,

got permission to vaccinate there,

and  caused quite a sensation when

he managed to immunize in two weeks

10 million people .

And that is exactly what we wanted to do in Hungary,

but despite the success of the vaccine in the Baltics

it would still have been impossible

to use the Sabin vaccine in Hungary

IF the official Soviet view was known.

So those of us who were involved in this

decided to keep quiet about the controversy,

and we recommended the oral Sabin vaccine anyway.

The result was that in  1959 in Hungary

2.3 million children , and 300 000 adults

were immunised, with the new vaccine.

We  put a good monitoring program in place

to watch for vaccine side effects,.

any suspicious case

was referred  to my department for assessment,

and our analysis of these cases

were presented to an international conference

held  in Budapest, Hungary

in the spring of 1960

which  Dr. Sabin himself attended.

We reviewed the cases that had been referred to us,

and in the end we concluded

that the vaccine was indeed safe. The effect of all of this was threefold:

1.  No further polio epidemics

occurred in Hungary after 1960.

2. Back in the United States

the Sabin vaccine was in full use by 1962;

3. and Back in the USSR

in 1963, Dr. Chumakov was vindicated

for his promotion of the new vaccine

when he was awarded the "Lenin Prize” ,

which was the highest award

in the former Soviet Union,

for his work with the vaccine.

So, as with the global

Swine Influenza epidemic of 2009

50 years earlier,  in  1959

in the saga  of the Iron Curtain and the Iron lung.

Politics and Polio,

were closed connected.

Mr. Chairman