Presidential Press Conferences during the Eisenhower years. Continuing a look at Presidential press conferences from the past few decades, President Eisenhower during his two terms of office.
1955 put America right in the middle of the Cold War, the Space race and the Polio Epidemic. This press conferences covers topics ranging from the return of 4 pilots held by the Chinese, arriving in Hong Kong on their way to Hawaii. The polio vaccine availability was the big news, and the President had a statement regarding it:
President Eisenhower: “I have several little announcements. First, as to personal activities, the month of June looms up as a very busy one for me. I am going to West Point on the 5th, I believe; Penn State on the 11th; I am going then to participate in this relocation exercise in the middle of the month.
Then on the 20th I am going out to extend the greetings of the American people on the opening of the United Nations. That will be on the 20th.
And then, from the 22d to the 27th, I am in New England. It is possible that some of those absences will catch a Wednesday, I am not sure. This is an odd day, too; this is Tuesday, isn’t it? [Laughter] About the four fliers: we have been in, of course, some communication about these things now for some days.
The four fliers arrived in Hong Kong, I believe, at 2:30 our time this morning, left there at 4:30, are on their way now to Honolulu.
The families of these four people have been contacted by the Secretary of the Air. He is picking up close members of the families, and is going to take them to Honolulu to meet them. That should take place, I guess, some time tomorrow evening, something of that kind.
Now, I want to talk a little bit about polio; the polio program seems to be losing some of its difficulties and inescapable snarls.
Of course, there has been delay. The delay has been brought about by two things: the care that was necessary in giving the tests, repeating the tests, to make certain that children and youngsters were not unduly exposed due to preventable cause; and, second, the new problems discovered by the producers in the mass production of this kind of a product.
I should like myself to give two words of caution to everybody. No vaccine is perfect protection against disease. You will remember that Dr. Francis found this one effective in, I believe it was a range of 60 to 90 percent, depending upon the range.
But I believe also it was found that any child having taken this vaccine had acquired an immunity that was three times as great as one who had not taken it. And then we must remember that it does take time for these great factories, when they are working on a mass production basis, to retool, get their machinery and everything in order, so that they both meet the tests and produce the volumes that are needed.
Now, as to distribution, remember I told you that the first priorities went to children, the first and the second grade. They were the ones that had been specified by the polio foundation-supported, of course, by all our doctors and scientists.
Within the next 30 days all the vaccine will be produced to carry out that program. Certainly within the next 60 days it will be complete.
After that, the Federal Government will be responsible for the allocation of the vaccine as it comes out in volume to the States to meet the needs of the 5 to 9 group first; and the States will be responsible after they have their properly allocated amounts to make certain that the methods and distribution have taken place in accordance with the regulations.
The Government, of course, to make certain that no child is denied this vaccine because of money, has asked for $28 million; I most earnestly hope that legislation will soon be enacted.
A very favorable development, one point that has been questioned by some, has been the assurance that doctors will observe the priorities established by the Government in cooperation with the scientists who have been working on the problem. We have the pledge of the American Medical Association that doctors will observe these priorities and will themselves keep complete records of every child who is vaccinated, so that we can get the exact results of this whole great process as the year rolls on.
I think that covers all the–I said I was going to the United Nations–yes.
I have no further statements. We will go to questions.”
The Press conference lasted a little under 30 minutes and was delay-broadcast to be carried in prime-time. A reminder of how Presidential press conferences were handled and their importance to most Americans at the time.
Here’s that complete broadcast from May 31, 1955 as it was heard over the NBC Radio Network.