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Q: Contracting Polio thru being immunized with bad vaccine - 1950s 60s ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Contracting Polio thru being immunized with bad vaccine - 1950s 60s
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: blakemo-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 26 Apr 2002 09:54 PDT
Expires: 26 May 2002 09:54 PDT
Question ID: 6193
I have heard that in the late 1950s or early 1960s many people
contracted Polio from a batch of vaccine that contained live virus.
The vaccine was apparently made by Cutter Labs (correct name?) which I
think was in, or near, Berkeley California. What can you tell me about
this? I am especially interested in knowing things like:

* How many people contracted Polio thru being "immunized" with the bad
* What lawsuits resulted from these cases?
* Did survivors suffer ongoing problems?
* Were most cases local to Cutter Labs?
* How many cases were fatal? Serious? Minor?

If that is too many questions withing one question, I am most
interested in the first three bullet points. Thanks for this great new
Subject: Re: Contracting Polio thru being immunized with bad vaccine - 1950s 60s
Answered By: cindy-ga on 26 Apr 2002 11:46 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

It's correct that in 1955 Cutter Labs in Berkeley, California was one
of 6 labs in the United States manufacturing a polio vaccine.  The
following is what I found regarding the lab and problems with the
vaccine it produced at that time:

"When the first, injectable, polio vaccine was tested on 1.8 million
American children, within a few days they had a huge epidemic of
paralytic polio: in the vaccinated, their parents and other contacts.
They called it the Cutter incident and claimed that some of the
vaccines (produced by the Cutter Laboratories) contained live polio
virus. So, the company withdrew their vaccines despite polio vaccines
produced by other manufacturers also causing paralysis in this

"In 1955 the Salk vaccine, produced by Cutter Labs in the San
Francisco Bay area, was released to the public. I was living in the
Bay area at the time, and I dearly remember the scandal that erupted
when 10 deaths and 192 cases of paralytic polio were caused by the

"Two weeks later, the first problems arose. On April 27, 1955, Surgeon
General Leonard Scheele assailed one of the six companies, charging
that its manufacturing lines had failed to kill the polio virus before
the vaccine was disseminated. Cutter Labs in Berkeley, California, was
ordered to halt production and recall batches of its vaccine. By the
beginning of May, 44 so-called Polio Pioneers had contracted the
disease 'from vaccine injections' ultimately, close to 70 would become
infected and a handful would die."

Although I did not find much about resultant lawsuits, there was some

"1958 Verdict of $147,000 rendered against Cutter Laboratories in
Calfornia for the crippling of two children with the Salk polio
vaccine. Cutter Labs was the only vaccine manufacturer not part of the
Rockefeller Trust."

and a case against Wyeth Laboratories - another of the vaccine
manufacturers - from 1968 which makes reference to a second suit
against Cutter Laboratories:

"In this respect our case differs from Gottsdanker v. Cutter
Laboratories, 182 Cal.App.2d 602, 6 Cal.Rptr. 320, 79 A.L.R.2d 290
(1960), involving the Salk vaccine. There harm resulted because
through inadequate testing procedures live virus remained in a product
from which they supposedly had been eliminated."

More information about Gottsdanker V. Cutter Laboratories can be found

"At issue in the Gottsdanker case was a polio vaccine, which was
alleged to have caused poliomyelitis in two children shortly after
they were inoculated.  The court held that while in food cases there
typically existed a familial relationship between the purchasers and
consumers, in the case of vaccinations, it is clearly the patient and
not the doctor who is the ultimate consumer of the vaccine.  The court
held that “[w]hile a sale is essential to impose liability under the
implied warranties, the initial sale to distributor or retailer of
pharmaceuticals is sufficient to impose upon the manufacturer the
responsibility of fulfilling the implied warranties which run to the
benefit of the persons whom the manufacturer intended to be, and who
in fact became, the ‘consumers."

Some ongoing problems and concerns related to problems with the polio
vaccine can be found here:

“American Home Products Corp., the No. 5 U.S. drugmaker, is accused in
a lawsuit of making and marketing an oral polio vaccine that caused
the death of a 21/2 year-old Los Angeles boy. (...) In a suit filed
Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Raphaele and Michael Horwin, the
parents of Alexander Roy Horwin, who died in early 1999, accused
American Home of failing to warn about the dangers of Orimune, the
company's oral polio vaccine (...) According to the suit, the vaccine
sometimes contains a cancer-causing virus called Simian Virus-40. The
boy was given the vaccine in November 1997, and was diagnosed with a
brain tumour the following August (...) After two surgeries to remove
the tumour and the administering of chemotherapy, Alexander died on
Jan. 31, 1999. An analysis of the tumour tissue removed from his brain
revealed the presence of Simian Virus-40, the suit said...”

"It's extremely rare, but it has happened. Until recently, between
four and eight people a year were getting polio from the 'live' (but
weakened) polio vaccine, the oral version that contained a live but
weakened form of the polio virus. This is why children now receive
only the inactivated polio vaccine, which comes in the form of a shot.
None of the other 'live' virus vaccines, including measles, mumps,
rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B, have ever caused the disease
they were designed to protect against."

"(...) each year about 10 children develop polio from the vaccine that
was created to protect them from the disease."

"Scientific studies obtained by New York--some of them decades
old--indicate that millions, if not tens of millions, of batches of
the miracle Salk vaccine were infected by a tenacious virus that
concealed itself within the renal cells of the rhesus and cynomolgus
monkeys with which the vaccine was made. Scientists have been aware
since the late fifties that this virus--later identified as Simian
Virus 40, or simply SV40-caused deadly tumors in laboratory hamsters.
But they are only now finding the footprints of SV40 in humans in rare
lung, bone, and brain cancers."

"‘Millions of people have been inoculated with the anti-polio vaccine
contaminated with the tumoral virus SV 40, which in origin was present
in the monkeys.’ Prof J Clausen, Institute of Preventative Medicine,
Odense, Denmark. Up to 500 million people may have received the
vaccine which was cultivated on the kidneys of the green monkey. 45 Dr
F Klinner commented: ‘Many here voice a silent view that the Salk and
Sabin vaccines, being made of monkey tissue, have been directly
responsible for the major increase of leukaemia in this country.’ In
the Lancet a report stated ‘Outbreak of paralytic poliomyelitis in
Oman...among fully vaccinated children.’ 35 According to the US
Centres for Disease Control, Feb 1992: ‘from 1980 thru 1989, every
case of polio in the US (excluding imported cases) was caused by the
vaccine.’ Being near to a polio-vaccinated baby can be a major risk.
An English professor at Cornell University, Bernard Reis, was
paralysed by polio a month after the vaccination of his child. Kay
McNeary was awarded $1.1 million after being crippled by polio after
changing her baby's nappy."

More detailed information about SD40 and the polio vaccine can by
found at:

And some statistics about usage and effectiveness:

"(...) the vaccine has been highly effective, with a 70 - 90%
protection rate. The discovery and use of polio vaccines has all but
eliminated polio in the Americas. In 1960, there were 2,525 cases of
paralytic polio in the United States. By 1965, there were 61. Between
1980 and 1990, cases averaged 8 per year, and most of those were
induced by vaccination! There has not been a single case of polio
caused by the wild virus since 1979, with a rare case reported each
year from persons coming into the country carrying the virus. In 1994,
polio was declared eradicated in all of the Americas."


Other useful URLs:

Center for Disease Control - Polio Vaccine page

Google Directory: Health > Conditions and Diseases > Infectious
Diseases > Viral > Poliomyelitis

Search terms used:

polio vaccine problem "live virus"

"Cutter Labs" polio

polio lawsuit statistics
blakemo-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Cindy, and thanks for your EXCELLENT answer! I am very impressed
with what you came up with, especially in light of the low dollar
value of my question. I had never even heard of the potential, and
extremely serious, complication of the SV40 virus being hidden in the
vaccine. A very thorough answer, nicely presented. THANKS VERY MUCH!

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