Returning Summer To The Children

The BD Hypak #10020 disposable syringe used in the Polio Vaccine Trials in 1954.

In the 1950s, polio - known at the time as infantile paralysis - killed or handicapped almost 50,000 American children each year. To prevent polio’s spread, many public parks and swimming pools closed during the hot summer months, when the disease was most virulent.

But at 9:18 am on April 28, 1954, a little girl in East Rutherford, New Jersey felt the prick of a needle and became part of the largest anti-polio experiment in medical history. Within a period of three weeks, BD syringes and needles had vaccinated a million schoolchildren in grades 1 through 3 in 44 states.

This first large-scale trial of the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was sponsored by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which had selected the BD Hypak™ #10020 disposable syringe and needle for the critical field test. If the vaccine proved effective - as in fact it did - it would put an end to this scourge of summer.

With little time to spare, BD was given the order to deliver thousands of 5 cc syringes and several million 1-inch needles to 215 test sites across the nation. If the syringes and needles were late, the entire trial would have to be canceled and the millions of children would once again be at risk of developing polio. BD rose to the challenge, and the inoculation program began as scheduled on April 28. BD provided the needles and syringes at cost, as did the five companies that produced the vaccine for the trial.

The reputation BD and its products earned in 1954 continues today, and the BD Hypak™ syringe is trusted around the world for the most critical applications. “We are extremely proud of BD’s heritage and the role that our products have played in addressing unmet healthcare needs of the global community,” said Peter Nolan, Worldwide President, Pharmaceutical Systems. “As a company, BD is committed to our purpose of helping all people live healthy lives, and to developing high-quality, innovative products.”


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