Between trust in science and Cold War ideologies: Polio prevention through the lenses of the Italian press in the 1950s and the 1960s
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The outbreak of viral diseases has always elicited widespread fears in the public audience and great media attention. Furthermore, the management of sanitary crises worldwide was and still is influenced by several factors, including scientific-based data, political decisions, media narratives and economic interests, strictly bound to the historical background. To shed some light on the complex intertwining among these elements, this Master thesis zooms in on the specific case study related to polio prevention in Italy in the 1950s and in the 1960s, by examining the articles published by two Italian newspapers, the Corriere della Sera and the l’Unità. While reporting about polio prophylaxis, they mediated among science, politics, ideologies and the economic interests underlying the commercialization of polio vaccines. These dailies represented two opposite ideological stances during the Cold War period, respectively the liberal-conservative and the communist ones. Therefore, they dealt with the matter about polio vaccines by embedding it in both domestic and foreign sanitary policies aimed at tackling the spread of polio. By analysing the international debate on polio immunization campaigns and its connection with the Cold War framework, this research aims at demonstrating how the Italian case study perfectly mirrors, at a “micro level”, the intricate web of powers operating internationally during the Post-war period. Furthermore, it fosters some considerations upon the role of the USA and the USSR during the Cold War. These countries should no longer be considered as two hermetically closed systems, but rather as two closed systems interacting in an open context, as they also used to be interconnected one with another and to mutually influence. Finally, this thesis provides some general insights to critically inquire and interpret some aspects of other epidemic and pandemic crises, their management and their narratives carried out by the principle media.