History is a powerful thing. If you accurately tell the story of an event that occurred, you get one picture, one understanding of it. Leave one tiny little detail out, however, and the whole picture changes. You can get thousands of details right, but get one wrong, or simply omit telling it, and an historical event can become so distorted that it becomes a lie. Take the story of the Salk inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). During the first half of the 1950s, Jonas Salk, MD developed the first injectable vaccine against polio containing inactivated, or “killed”, strains of the poliovirus.
As a dead, rather than live, virus vaccine, Dr. Salk’s IPV supposedly carried no risk of giving recipients “vaccine-associated polio paralysis.”1 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “IPV is produced from wild-type poliovirus strains of each serotype that have been inactivated (killed) with formalin.”2
Here’s that little detail, though. The poliovirus that Dr. Salk killed with formalin, or formaldehyde, were not always killed; they sometimes only appeared to be killed.