Animal Experimentation - Frequently Asked Questions: Didn't the polio vaccine come from animal experimentation?
An Animal Rights Article from


AFMA Americans for Medical Advancement
March 2006

Didn't the polio vaccine come from animal experimentation?

Animal experimentation actually delayed this much-needed vaccine throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Polio first broke out around 1835, with victims rapidly becoming paralyzed and dying. In 1840, an orthopedic surgeon wrote that the spinal cord was the seat of infection, a hypothesis that was proven twenty-three years later.

In 1908, scientists suggested that a virus was responsible, a virus that might be eradicated with a vaccine. In developing a vaccine, it is very important to determine how the infection enters the body and takes hold. You cannot interrupt its contagion unless you determine its path. Pathologists discovered the poliovirus in human intestines as early as 1912, which suggested it might enter humans through the digestive track.

Meanwhile researchers successfully infected animals with polio. This "triumph" wound up postponing the development of an efficacious vaccine by decades. As it turned out, our close relatives the monkeys contracted polio nasally (not through the digestive system), and the virus moved directly from the nose to the brain. Incredibly, the scientists working on the vaccine chose to ignore the human digestive data in favor of the monkey data!

The pro-animal experimenters are not incorrect when they claim that a polio vaccine was derived from animal experiments because in 1934, a polio vaccine manufactured from monkey tissue was released. What they fail to mention is that it resulted in twelve people being paralyzed and six deaths. In 1937, animal experiments led scientists to spray zinc sulfate and picric acid alum into children's noses, reasoning that if the human transmission route was via the nasal mucosa as it was in monkeys, this would kill the virus in the nose. The only result was that some children permanently lost their sense of smell. In 1941, thirty years after the original animal experiments, Dr. Albert Sabin worked with autopsy findings to demonstrate that the human nasal mucosa did not have virus. What he did find was that the virus was confined to the gastrointestinal tract, as had been determined nearly thirty years prior. Years later, Dr. Sabin recalled the folly of the monkey models for polio:

Paralytic polio could be dealt with only by preventing the irreversible destruction of the large number of motor nerve cells, and the work on prevention was long delayed by the erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys.

In 1949, John Enders grew the virus in tissue culture. This paved the way for vaccine. For this achievement he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954.

The vaccine could have been produced from non-animal tissue, however manufacturers opted for monkey kidney tissue instead. The older animal-based vaccine contained live virus, causing 204 people to contract polio, and eleven documented deaths.

The polio vaccine is now grown in human diploid-cell culture instead of in animal tissue.

Go on to: Animal Experimentation - Frequently Asked Questions: Wasn't it through lab animals that scientists discovered diabetes and developed insulin?

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