Study Buddy (Explorer): The ‘great success’ of Hong Kong’s 1963 drive to give children a polio vaccine dose

  • Each week, Study Buddy Explorer presents an interesting story that we have adjusted to be more accessible for all English learners
  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
YP |

Latest Articles

Hong Kong police set to launch ‘HKSOS’ app to find lost hikers

Hong Kong records more than 10,000 lightning strikes during 3-hour amber rainstorm alert

UN concerned about lack of women in China’s top government

Canada says youths’ mental health woes a ‘ticking time bomb’

Education Bureau announces subsidy move benefiting Hong Kong’s Primary Six classes

A nurse gives a polio vaccine to a child in Wan Chai in 1963 as part of Hong Kong’s successful anti-polio drive during the 1960s. Photo: Handout

Content provided by the British Council

Read the following text and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] On August 18, 1962, the South China Morning Post reported: “Most children over five years old in Hong Kong have already had [the disease] ... and do not need the oral vaccine which the Government is making available free in January to every child five years and under.” The disease was poliomyelitis.

[2] “The vaccine will be flown from Britain and placed in special freezing chambers. Distribution centres will be made known to the public in December,” the article continued, adding that “the campaign was being carried out in the winter months because experience elsewhere showed vaccination campaigns were best carried out when natural polio infection was least active”.

[3] On December 24, the Post reported that “yellow banners bearing the words ‘Anti-polio Immunisation Campaign’ will be flown at temporary centres for 10 days beginning on January 2 to guide parents bringing their children”.

[4] “The vaccine to be used is given by mouth and only a few drops of liquid need be swallowed on two occasions, with an interval of eight weeks between doses. For those aged between two and five, a cube of sugar containing the vaccine will be given to be swallowed on the spot.”

[5] By January 13, 1963, more than 80 per cent of children in Hong Kong had received the Sabin vaccine. The drive was “hailed as ‘a great success’ by a Medical Department spokesman”.

[6] On March 1, the Post reported, “The second phase of the anti-polio drive to protect the Colony’s children against poliomyelitis opens today. Parents are urged by the Medical Department to ensure that their children receive the second dose as this is absolutely essential to obtain full protection.”

[7] The Post reported on April 30 that “no case of poliomyelitis in this age group [from six months to five years] had been reported in the last two months”.
Source: South China Morning Post, January 11


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. How was the polio vaccination given according to paragraph 1?
A. by injection
B. by rubbing the liquid on the skin
C. by dropping it into the mouth
D. by spraying it into the nose to be inhaled

2. Which group of people was the vaccine drive targeted at according to paragraph 1?

3. According to paragraph 2, why was the vaccine campaign carried out during the winter?

4. What might be the reason for putting the polio vaccine in a sugar cube for children aged between two and five?
A. to mask its unpleasant taste
B. to increase its effectiveness
C. to take away the side effects of the vaccine
D. all of the above

5. Match the words and phrases from the text to their meaning. (4 marks)

6. When did the second phase of the “Anti-polio Immunisation Campaign” begin?

7. What does the phrase “this age group” in paragraph 7 refer to?
A. young children between the ages of six months and five years
B. parents of children under the age of five years
C. children who contracted poliomyelitis when they were between six months and five years old
D. children above the age of six months who have not received the polio vaccine

8. Complete the following summary using the words below. (4 marks)

two | vaccines | distributed | disease | five

Hong Kong’s drive to eliminate polio in the early 1960s involved giving (i) _____ to children aged (ii) _____ and under. This was because those who were older had already had the (iii) _____. The vaccine was flown from Britain and (iv) _____ at local vaccination centres. Children were given (v) _____ doses of the vaccine.

9. What is the article about?
A. a vaccine for a new variant of Covid-19 called poliomyelitis
B. a polio vaccination campaign in the 1960s
C. why polio is dangerous for young children
D. none of the above

On Lantau Island, Dr W.G.L. Allan gives polio vaccines to Yuen Wa-chiu, chairman of the Mui Wo Rural Committee in 1963. Photo: Handout


1. C
2. children five years and under
3. because natural polio infection is the least active during this time
4. A
5. (i) d; (ii) c; (iii) b; (iv) a
6. March 1, 1963
7. A
8. (i) vaccine; (ii) five; (iii) disease; (iv) distributed; (v) two
9. B

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy