Like many at risk from coronavirus, I expect to hunker down till we get a vaccine. When will that be? Polio history brings to mind my mother’s saying, there’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip.
Approval. Licensing a new vaccine depends on tests to prove it safe and effective. Salk’s polio vaccine was licensed, and boxes of vaccine shipped, the very day field trial results were announced. Though the public acclaimed the rush to market, some scientists thought it reckless.
Manufacture. Working with biologicals is iffy. Two manufacturers of Salk-style vaccine agreed to scale up production to supply every country that didn’t already use it. Technical difficulties kept them from fulfilling the contract on schedule.
Distribution. A vaccine won’t reach you and me the day it leaves the plant. Much depends on supply, priorities, and wild cards beyond human control. When ash from a volcano in Iceland closed European airports, at least 15 million doses of polio vaccine bound for West Africa were grounded in Paris and Frankfurt.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.