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.


Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password
24th May 2018
Thanks for voting!
It was the death of Jeff Hall, Birmingham City and England footballer's death from polio in April 1959 that spurred the people of England to seek vaccination.

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!