Drive-Thru Polio Clinic

Late 1940s brought a new concept to American dining: the drive-thru window.

The drive-thru was a quick, convenient take on the popular drive-in restaurant of the time, best remembered by its carhops on roller skates and trays attached to the car window during the heydays of cruising in the 1950s and 1960s.

So why talk about the advent of the drive-thru window in a blog largely focused on health care and medicine?

June 24, 1962: Henry Ford Hospital's drive-thru Oral Polio Vaccine Program in the hospital parking garage. From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System.

June 24, 1962: Henry Ford Hospital’s drive-thru Oral Polio Vaccine Program in the hospital parking garage. From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System.

In the early 1960s, medicine borrowed a page from the drive-thru window’s concept of fast, “don’t-even-need-to-leave-your-car” convenience in a radical effort to eradicate polio – a crippling disease that sicken tens of thousands of Americans in the early 20th century.

Most people infected with the polio virus had no symptoms; however, for the less than 1% who developed paralysis it resulted in permanent disability and even death.

Henry Ford Hospital was one of many hospital across the nation to host a drive-thru polio vaccination program in the 1960s. The Oral Polio Vaccine Program was directed by Dr. Edward L. Quinn, founder of the hospital’s division of Infectious Diseases.

During the three-hour event on June 24, 1962, 438 cars made their way through the hospital’s parking garage. In all, 1,595 doses of the Sabin Oral Vaccine were administered. Continue reading

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