Albert B. Sabin and Oral Polio Vaccine

To commemorate Dr. Albert B. Sabin, who dedicated his professional career to develop oral polio vaccine, which has been used to prevent millions of children over the world to be healthy from acute poliomyelitis which can cause death and paralysis. His story would be distributed to those interested in vaccine history and biography. Additionally, value in his life may inspire someone to make something to the world even a small thing.

Dr. Sabin was born on August 26, 1906 in Bialystok, Poland, at the time it was a part of Russian Empire. To avoid Nazi persecution against Jews, He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1921 (he was 15 years old) and settled in Paterson, New Jersey.

At first, He planned to study dentistry since his uncle, who was a dentist, had offered to pay his college tuition at New York University (NYU) if he pursued the profession. He became interested in medical research, however, and changed course, earning an M.D. from NYU in 1931. That summer, New York experienced a polio epidemic, and Sabin immediately developed an interest in studying polio and other infectious diseases when he was 25 years old.

At the age of 29, Dr. Sabin joined the staff of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University) in New York City in 1935. When World War II started in 1939, he moved to the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio and he started his 33 years old with groundbreaking research in polio viruses. Introducing this new idea of enteroviruses – viruses that live “in the gut” – to the medical establishment, Dr. Sabin was able to prove poliomyelitis essentially an infection of the alimentary tract and indicated polio might be prevented by an oral vaccine.

This early work on a poliomyelitis vaccine was interrupted by World War II. In 1941 he joined the U.S. Army Epidemiological Board’s Virus Committee and accepted assignments in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. It was during this phase of his career that Dr. Sabin developed vaccines for encephalitis (sleeping sickness), sand-fly fever, and dengue fever. In 1945 at the end of World War II when he was 39 years old, he returned to Cincinnati and resumed his research on the polio virus which ultimately led to the development of the oral live polio vaccine, pioneered in collaboration with Russian scientists during the Cold War.

Photo credit: Cincinnati Children’s. (2019). Our History A Proud Legacy of Innovation.  Retrieved August 25, 2019. from

In the mid-1950s, physicians were administering a new killed virus polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk, which prevented many of the complications of polio but required booster shots.

Dr. Sabin and his research associates first ingested the live avirulent viruses themselves before experimenting on others. The oral vaccine was first tested outside the USA from 1957 to 1959. In 1960 when he was 54 years old, the first large-scale of oral polio vaccines were administered to 180,000 school children in Cincinnati. Ultimately, a successful Sabin vaccine was used to eradicate polio throughout the world.

Photo Credit: Polio Place.  (2019).  Albert Bruce Sabin, MD.  Retrieved August 29, 2019. From

His Executive Position

1970 – 1972: President of the Weizmann Institute of Science

1974: Full-time consultant to the U.S. National Cancer Institute

1974 – 1982: Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine at the Medical University of South Carolina

1984 – 1986: Senior Expert Consultant at the Fogarty International Center for Advanced Studies in the Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health

1986: Part-time at the Fogarty International Center as a Senior Medical Science Advisor and a lecturer in the United States and abroad.

Dr. Sabin continued to be a powerful force in the international scientific community as medical statesman, consultant, and lecturer until the end of his life. His contributions were not just in the scientific realm but included a more global perspective of humanitarianism. He became an advocate for peace and fought the diseases of ignorance and poverty by espousing the same strategies of mutual trust and international cooperation which led to his conquest of polio.

Dr. Sabin died on March 3, 1993 at the age of 87. His wife, Heloisa, died on October 12, 2016. Dr. Sabin and Heloisa are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.


  1. SABIN VACCINE INSTITUTE. (2019).  The Legacy of Albert B. Sabin.  Retrieved August 25, 2019. from
  2. The National Science Foundation. (2019).  Albert B. Sabin (1906-1993).  Retrieved August 25, 2019. from
  3. Polio Place. (2019).  Albert Bruce Sabin, MD.  Retrieved August 29, 2019. From
  4. Cincinnati Children’s. (2019). Our History A Proud Legacy of Innovation.  Retrieved August 25, 2019. from