August 30, 2005 12:37 ET

Hon. John McCallum, Minister Responsible for Canada Post, Announces New Stamp to Mark the 50th Anniversary of Universal Polio Vaccination Program

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 30, 2005) - 50 years ago, Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that had the potential to eradicate polio, one of the most feared diseases in the world. Today, Dr. Salk's vaccine continues to do the job it was designed to do - protect all of us from a debilitating disease. To mark this important milestone, Canada Post will issue a single domestic rate (50 cents) stamp on September 2, 2005, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Canada's program of universal polio vaccination. The stamp will be unveiled at Sanofi Pasteur's Connaught Campus in Toronto on September 2.

Canadians who lived through the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s remember vividly the newspaper photos and newsreel footage of children with leg braces, physical therapy being conducted in swimming pools and victims encased in "iron lungs." This crippling disease spared no one, adult or child, striking people from all walks of life, right up to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Paul Martin, Canada's current Prime Minister.

"In celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada's program of universal polio vaccination, we are indeed recognizing an important milestone in Canadian history," said the Honourable John McCallum, Minister responsible for Canada Post. "Although many of our memories associated with polio are somber, this stamp is a celebration of the fact that polio is indeed just a memory in Canada."

In 1948, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) in the United States, now known as the March of Dimes, asked Dr. Jonas Salk to identify the different types of polio and develop vaccines. Another medical researcher, Dr. Albert Sabin, was also instrumental in defeating the disease. Connaught Medical Research Laboratories of the University of Toronto played a key role in the development of Dr. Salk's vaccine. Jonas Salk faced two problems during its development phase: ensuring that the vaccine was safe for human use and devising a method of mass production for the millions of families requesting protection. The Connaught Laboratory developed a method of growing the polio virus in a test tube (rather than using monkeys) and discovered the nutrient base known as "Medium 199," which provided a chemically pure medium that could grow large quantities of polio virus fluid. The final step, the "Toronto technique," used large bottles gently rocked in machines to produce bulk quantities of the polio virus which were used in the vaccine.

The United States ran vaccination field trials in the summer of 1954, which were subsequently expanded nationally in both Canada and the USA. When 79 American children contracted polio after receiving the vaccine, the Surgeon General cancelled the entire U.S. program. Prime Minister Louis Saint-Laurent was reluctant to continue the program in Canada and urged his Minister of Health and Welfare, Paul Martin Sr. (father of the current Prime Minister) to halt the program. Martin, however, decided to continue mass vaccinations, maintaining confidence in the Connaught Laboratory and its product.

Canada's confidence in the Salk vaccine renewed confidence worldwide. The U.S. lifted its ban and implemented a federal monitoring system modeled after Canada's for the production, testing, and distribution of vaccines.

Five decades after the introduction of the Salk vaccine, polio has been eradicated in most countries. In 1994, the World Health Organization declared Canada and the Americas polio-free. In 2000, the 51 countries of the WHO European region were similarly polio-free and the disease is presently found only in parts of Africa and south Asia. In this effort, Canada has been among the top five donors to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Debbie Adams of Toronto designed the commemorative stamp featuring happy children at play on it. Ms. Adams wanted to illustrate "in a positive way that, as a result of the polio vaccine, children are free from the fear of this debilitating disease. A pair of discarded leg braces in the bottom left corner of the stamp further emphasizes this point." Over the years Ms. Adams has created Canadian stamps that celebrate Urban Transit, the Massey Foundation, Kites, Literacy, Pensions, and Space. Her hologram stamp was a technical first for Canada Post.

The stamp measures 48 mm x 35 mm, and will be sold in a pane of 16. Canadian Bank Note printed 2.5 million of the stamp, using ten-colour lithography on Tullis Russell Coatings paper. The stamp is general tagged on all four sides. The Official First Day Cover will read: Ottawa, ON.

Additional information about Canadian stamps can be found in the Newsroom section of Canada Post's website, and a downloadable high-resolution photo of the Polio vaccine commemorative stamp is in the Newsroom's Photo Centre. Stamps and Official First Day covers will be available at participating post offices, can be ordered online by following the links at Canada Post's website , or by mail-order from the National Philatelic Centre. From Canada and the USA call toll-free: 1-800-565-4362 and from other countries call: (902) 863-6550.

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