The Cutter story. A cautionary tale about vaccine production

‘This story might help avoid mistakes in a vaccination programme’

Peter Limbrick writes: This story is about polio and children. It is not a nice story but it carries an important warning for all of us. The Cutter story is easily available on line, for instance in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine where the first paragraph tells us:

In April 1955 more than 200 000 children in five Western and mid-Western USA states received a polio vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective. Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programme against polio had to be abandoned. Subsequent investigations revealed that the vaccine, manufactured by the California-based family firm of Cutter Laboratories, had caused 40 000 cases of polio, leaving 200 children with varying degrees of paralysis and killing 10.

Please read the article for yourself. My understanding is that US government sent out inadequate information to companies that were planning to manufacture the vaccine. Subsequently, the Cutter company used an imperfect filter in the process letting pathogenic material through into the vaccine.

There is an international rush for a Covid vaccine in which mistakes can happen again, either in the original design and testing programmes, in the manufacturing processes or in the delivery to citizens. I am a supporter of effective vaccination programmes and I offer the Cutter story only as a cautionary tale.

share your information  Cartoon © Martina Jirankova-Limbrick 2011