Sugar Cubes for Polio?

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Sugar cubes for Polio? This is a really weird question. I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago, and he was convinced that people were once given sugar cubes for polio. Could this possibly be part of a cure? He was so convinced, so I had to do some research to prove him wrong.

I actually asked around as well. What I found was that people either thought this was really ridiculous or thought there may be some truth to the story.

Can sugar cubes cure polio, or have they ever been used to cure polio? The quick answer is “No”. The longer answer is that some of the original polio vaccines were administered either in drops or on a sugar cube. Therefore, I guess you can say that sugar cubes played a role in polio treatment.

Where were sugar cubes given?

One of the more interesting findings on this subject was that many people remember getting the sugar cubes while in school.

There are stories of elementary to high school kids that remember taking doses of sugar cubes for polio. This is probably why there is such a strong opinion that sugar cubes can cure polio!

The sugar cubes were given out in schools as a way to quickly treat the masses. If each of these children had to go through the doctor’s office, the vaccination process would have been much longer.

Which Polio Vaccine used sugar cubes?

In the 1950s, there were two polio vaccines created. One was developed by Jonas Salk around 1952. The use of this vaccine began a few years later.

The other vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin in 1957 and began to be used in the early 1960s.

The vaccine created by Salk was injected. The vaccine created by Sabin was an oral vaccine, so people that received the vaccine in a sugar cube form received the second vaccine.

How were these Polio Vaccines Different?

The Salk vaccine give a person individual immunity from polio, but it doesn’t prevent the person from transmitting the disease to other people.

The Sabin vaccine makes people immune from the disease and also stops any further transmission.

The Salk vaccine used an inactive version of the polio virus. On the other hand, the Sabin vaccine used attenuated polio virus, so there was a very very small chance of getting real polio from the vaccine.

What were the chances of side effects from the polio vaccine?

The inactivated polio viruses are thought to be generally safe. For those injected, mild redness or pain may occur at the site of the injection.

Oral polio vaccines cause about 3 cases of vaccine-associated paralytic polio per million doses given. This compares with 5,000 cases per million that are paralyzed following the polio infection. This was seen as a promising risk-reward for giving out those sugar cubes!

What other vaccines use sugar cubes?

Any of the ORAL vaccines can be given with a sugar cube.

These can include diseases such as:

  • Sabin polio vaccine strains
  • Rotavirus (various forms)
  • Dukoral killed cholera vaccine O1
  • CVD live cholera strain
  • attenuated Shigella flexneri strain

What Year was Polio a problem?

In the first half of the 20th century, polio had become a scary disease in the United States. Summer was the time of year where many became afraid of the disease, especially those with children. This time of the year was known as “polio season”

In the 1950s, there were estimated to be upwards of 50,000 new cases of polio each year. Polio became a huge problem, so when Jonas Salk came along with a vaccine, he became a national hero.

When did they stop giving Polio Vaccines in the US?

From 1961 to 1989, there were an estimated 9 cases of paralytic poliomyelitis in the year. Given the potential serious side effects of the vaccine, the vaccine was often evaluated by the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

In 1998, the risk of polio virus importation into the US slowly decreased until it became very difficult to justify routine use of the vaccine.

Since this move in 1998, the number of reported cases of polio each year has dropped from 350,000 to 33 in 2018.

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