A federal panel recommended today that the oral polio vaccine that was first given to baby boomers on a sugar cube be abandoned in favor of the injected version to reduce the risk of contracting the paralyzing disease from the serum itself.
The oral vaccine, developed by Albert Sabin, has been used for nearly four decades and played a major role in the near-eradication of polio. But because it is made with a live virus, it causes about eight people in the United States each year to become infected with the disease.
In contrast, the injectable vaccine developed by medical pioneer Jonas Salk in the 1950s relies on a killed virus.
Salk had long insisted that his injectable vaccine was safer. However, other scientists said it was not as effective at providing life-long immunity.
Today, however, a committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on immunizations decided that the benefits of the oral polio vaccine no longer outweigh the risks.
"If physicians universally take up these recommendations we will eliminate vaccine-associated paralytic polio in this country," said Paul Offit, chairman of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Under the recommendations, which would go into effect next year, children would receive shots for all four doses of the polio vaccine. Children now receive two oral vaccinations -- a liquid squirted in their mouths -- and two injections.