[back] Ratner

Doctor had key role by keeping vaccine

September 13th, 2005
Oak Park, Illinois

Originally printed in: Oak Leaves on Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

“Polio vaccine, now 50, had Oak Park doubters,”(April 27) brought back fond memories of Herbert Ratner, M.D., my mentor and Oak Park’s health director from 1947-1972.

Dr. Ratner played a key role in 1955, a turning point in American medicine.

I visited Ratner’s home on two occasions when Michele Carbone, M.D.,Ph.D., was present. On May 21, 1997, Ratner had me bring from his basement refrigerator and give to Dr. Carbone two unopened vials of the Salk polio vaccine. Ratner had kept the refrigerated vaccine vials for more than 40 years.

On Feb. 17, 1998, Ratner’s three daughters invited Carbone, his four colleagues, lawyer, court reporter and me to meet at Ratner’s home. This was two months after Ratner’s death on Dec. 6, 1997, at 90 years old. One of his daughters gave Carbone the box of five Salk polio vaccine vials.

Since 1955, Ratner had refrigerated all of the vaccine vials. He knew that there was live polio virus in the supposedly killed Salk vaccine. In the 1960’s, he found out that the vaccine also contained the SV40  monkey virus. In the 1990’s, Loyola’s Carbone implicated the SV40 virus in cancer tumors, called mesothelioma. Drs. Ratner and Carbone had met at a National Institutes of Health workshop Jan. 27-28, 1997.

In the 1950’s, Cutter Laboratories took the blame for deaths and paralysis following injection of the polio vaccine. However, Paul Offit, M.D., in the April 2005 New England Journal of Medicine, has implicated five drug companies in the disaster: Cutter, Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis, Pitman-Moore and Wyeth. Each company had difficulties with formaldehyde-inactivation of the polio virus. In a 1960 lawsuit, the jury learned that Wyeth produced only one vaccine lot that paralyzed and caused deaths of several children in the Northeast.

Ratner felt Jonas Salk’s vaccine harmed thousands of children due to incomplete research and rush to market. Basil O’Connor, president of National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, insisted the Salk vaccine be released for publicity purposes on April 12, 1955. As President Franklin Roosevelt’s lawyer, he wanted the release to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the president’s death. Thus, the vaccine review committee had no time to analyze the vaccine trial data.

Polio appeared to decrease after the vaccine introduction because U.S. Public Health Service, at the time adopted more stringent criteria for polio reporting. Cases which formerly would have been reported as polio were now reported as meningitis.

Ratner gave me an article from his friend Max Marshall, Ph.D., chairman of the department of microbiology at University of California Medical Center. “The Salk Vaccine” appeared in the November 1955 California Medicine and read: “Are we so socialized that we must argue that saving five children at the expense of two who are killed, who otherwise would have lived, is a legitimate move? There are persons who argue and who are even surprised that there is disagreement. All proper medical men and a large number of others will realize that this outlook, whatever its social propriety, impropriety, or inhumanity, sets up a dictator, a man whose decisions are sacrosanct, the man who decides to kill some to save others.”

Barbara Mullarkey, (president Illinois Vaccine Awareness Coalition)