As people around the world focus on—and often argue about—the ongoing rollout of the various COVID-19 vaccines, The Ed Sullivan Show YouTube channel has published a behind-the-scenes video highlighting Elvis Presley and his role in encouraging young people to take the polio vaccine back in October 1956.
At that time, the video explains, the U.S. was facing a deadly outbreak of polio but the nation’s teens—those with the highest potential risk of catching the virus—were reluctant to get vaccinated.
Elvis decided to play his part in promoting the vaccination efforts. “Whatever I do, I always wanna do my best for the teenagers,” Presley says in an audio clip. “I certainly never wanna do anything that would be a wrong influence.”
In October 1956, coming off a star-making Ed Sullivan Show debut the month prior, Presley returned to the show by popular demand for another round of performances. While at the studio taping his performance, Elvis received his polio vaccine backstage. The star’s initiative promoting the polio vaccine made headlines and played a crucial role in influencing teens and young adults to get the vaccine and help defeat the disease.
The new clip features behind-the-scenes footage from Presley’s famed appearance on Ed Sullivan, images of his backstage vaccination, audio of his public service statements about polio, recent news events, and even a recent segment from The Late Show With Stephen Colbert about how high-profile endorsements may aid in ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
“Remember me,” a polio-stricken child is heard saying before Presley’s voice fades in: “That’s the voice of thousands who know that the fight against polio is just as tough as it ever was. Some of them are paralyzed so that they can’t even move a finger. Others can’t do the simple, everyday things we take for granted.”
With this suddenly timely content from half a century ago, this hybrid new/old clip attempts to draw a connection between today’s events and a past challenge while presenting an important aspect of the King’s legacy that contributed to saving millions of lives. Watch the clip about Elvis Presley receiving his polio vaccine backstage at The Ed Sullivan Show below.
The Ed Sullivan Show – Elvis Presley Gets Polio Vaccine
[Video: The Ed Sullivan Show]
For 23 years (1948–1971), The Ed Sullivan Show was the high-water mark for musicians looking to break through to a mainstream audience. The Ed Sullivan Show YouTube page, operated by SOFA Entertainment/UMe, has steadily uploaded videos of notable musical performances from the iconic variety show since last June. Head to the show’s YouTube channel to peruse the various performances available to watch.