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Letters to the Editor: Warp-speed vaccine manufacturing sickened 40,000 kids with polio in the 1950s

Polio vaccination
Children in 1957 receive polio vaccine shots.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: In 1955, the federal government put on a warp-speed vaccination effort. Dr. Jonas Salk followed all scientific protocols and rigorously tested his polio vaccine before it was declared safe and effective in April 1955. The federal government wanted to quickly inoculate as many children as possible with millions of vaccine doses. (“Why is the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement growing during a pandemic?” Aug. 20)

On the West Coast, the only manufacturer that could mass produce vaccines at warp speed was Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley. It cut corners, did not follow Salk’s formula and mistakenly produced 120,000 vaccine doses that contained the live virus.

Forty thousand children became sick; I was one of them. My father, a doctor, had given me the vaccine and never forgave himself. Fortunately I had a “mild” case, but to this day I suffer terribly from the effects of my illness.

My family, my grandchildren, my husband and I have all had our immunizations. We all get a flu shot every year. We believe in the safety and necessity of vaccines. But let me say that I, for one, will not be first in line for this “warp speed” COVID-19 vaccine.

These things should never be rushed.

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Planaria Price, Los Angeles

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To the editor: With all due respect, skepticism of a “Trump tainted” vaccine is in no way related to the anti-vaccination movement. The latter is a cultish rejection of science, while the former is a well-placed skepticism of anything said, done or influenced by Trump, whose motives are widely known to be exclusively self-serving.

I myself will take a COVID-19 vaccine after it has been properly tested and vetted by actual authorities, not by any Trump press conference.

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Jeff Goodwin, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The L.A. Times Editorial Board was right when it exposed Trump’s political and self-serving motives for pressuring the FDA to fast-track COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Trump’s tactics reveal much about his continued efforts to mislead the public.

This was demonstrated a few weeks ago when Trump ventured to a pharmaceutical lab in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, where he declared, “We will achieve a victory over the virus by unleashing American scientific genius.”

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Trump’s language not only diverted public attention away from his administration’s incompetent handling of the pandemic, it also falsely suggested that he is responsible for a vaccine that has yet to be approved. Attributing responsibility for a “victory” to Trump would be like Winston Churchill having announced, before the Battle of Britain ended, that it was mostly he and not Royal Air Force pilots who had beaten back the German air force.

Credit for a vaccine ought to go mainly to the scientists who dedicated themselves to finding it rather than to one who has often disparaged science, denied the pandemic’s seriousness and divided the nation over how to cope with it.

Ken Zagacki, Cary, N.C.


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