Eight University doctors yesterday gave final approval for Massachusetts to participate in one of the biggest public health experiments in history, the nation wide tests of the Salk polio vaccine.
As members of a special 11-man advisory committee, the doctors decided that there can be no danger in mass trials of the new vaccine that is supposed to prevent infantile paralysis.
Several hours after their decision, Dr. Samuel B. Kirkwood, M.D. '31, State Health Commissioner, announced that on the basis of the committee's recommendation up to 40,000 school children in the state will be vaccinated with the Salk serum before June.
It is expected that within a year the vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh, will provide an answer to the question of whether or not infantile paralysis has been conquered.
In addition to their role yesterday in approving the polio tests for Massachusetts, Harvard doctors have contributed research indispensable to the large-scale manufacture of the vaccine. Dr. John F. Enders, associate professor of Bacteriology and Immunology, Dr. Thomas H. Weller, associate professor of Tropical Public Health, and Dr. Leonard R. Robbins, research fellow in Medicine, devised the basic method of tissue culture used in making the serum.
"We will just have to wait and see," Dr. Enders said yesterday when asked whether the Salk vaccine will prove the final answer to the polio problem. He explained, however, that the vaccine seems to produce antibodies in the blood which counteract all three kinds of polio.
Gamma globulin, Enders said also provides antibodies against polio, but in a passive way. Whereas the new vaccine presumably help a person to develop his own antibodies, gamma globulin only provides ready-made antibodies, he stated.
The Massachusetts school children who will get the vaccine, probably starting by May 15, are in the first to third grades. Some of these children wil receive the authentic vaccine, while others will get an innocuous substance and will be used as a control group to determine the results of the vaccination on the first group of children.