In 1961, Hull did something extraordinary

In October 1961, Hull faced a shock outbreak of polio.

It was the most sudden and serious outbreak of the disease in the United Kingdom for almost two years. The number of cases rose from two to five, to nineteen in a matter of days and polio-panic ensued.

An announcement was made by the Minister of Health. Hull would be the first city in Western Europe to use a new oral polio vaccine. In an extraordinary bid to protect the city, a target was set: 300,000 administered vaccines.


Just one week after the first case had been reported, Hull was ready. Temporary clinics were established across the city in sites such as schools, churches and department stores. Some 3,000 people, mostly volunteers, were involved in providing the vaccine.


On 17th October 1961, Hull’s campaign to vaccinate the city began and within hours, long queues formed outside clinics.

RAF answers more drops

The Royal Air Force even delivered more vaccines when supplies were running low.

In this medical first, more than 350,000 people were vaccinated against polio in the space of a week.

In 1961, Hull did something extraordinary. Volunteers, health workers, pilots, business people, reporters, school teachers and council officers worked together to curb the polio outbreak in Hull.

Extraordinary campaigns like this are still happening today. Across the world, volunteers and health workers are working together to ensure polio is eradicated.

Across difficult terrains, one child at a time, local volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure every child receives the polio vaccine, no matter where they live.


Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries where polio must still be stopped. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio worldwide. In 2017, there were just 22.

Alison Keld is a Hull City of Culture volunteer. She says:

‘I was most surprised and proud to learn that as a 9-year-old schoolgirl receiving the vaccine on a sugar lump back in 1961, I had been part of an extraordinary achievement in Hull’s history.

‘To reach the point of impending eradication of polio is one of man’s remarkable achievements. It has taken many generations to come this far.  This is our chance to wipe out only the second human disease in history.’

Watch a short film, Lead Like Hull, below

Two ways to get involved in our campaign

Are you a survivor, carer or do you know someone close to you who suffers from the effects of polio today? If so, we’d be delighted if you’d share your story with us. Please send an email to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.

Are you interested in signing up to the One Last Push campaign? If so, you can pledge your voice to help make sure that no child ever has to suffer at the hands of polio again. Sign up to show your support for polio eradication and for those who are making it happen.


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