April 24th, 2014

Pioneering Measles Vaccine Researcher Has Anecdotes, Insight, Perspective, and Generosity to Spare

people_measles5In the new IDSA/Oxford University Press journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases (OFID), we plan to interview a series of great figures in ID about their experiences, posting them as podcasts with accompanying scripts.

Our first interview is with Dr. Samuel Katz, a key figure in development of the measles vaccine, and it can be heard here.

It’s timely for several reasons. First, World Immunization Week starts today; second, MMWR just released a summary of the staggering health benefits of the “Vaccines for Children” program, created 20 years ago in response to the last big measles outbreak in this country; and third, the Annals of Internal Medicine has just published a thoughtful commentary on the difficulty of identifying measles in an era when so few clinicians have ever seen a case.

I encourage you to listen to the full interview, but here are some highlights:

  • What it was like working in the lab of Nobel laureate John Enders
  • How they tested the attenuated measles virus first in monkeys, and then on themselves (!)
  • Planning and conducting the first clinical trial
  • Expansion of the vaccine to international use
  • How Dr. Katz views the anti-vaccine movement

There are some great stories in there, all suffused with an extraordinary generosity of spirit and humility. You’ve heard the phrase “humble to a fault”? We’ve got a prime candidate in Dr. Samuel Katz!

After all, what other medical advances have had quite the health benefits of a safe, highly effective vaccine — especially for a disease as contagious and potentially serious as measles? Or, to extract some key data from the MMWR cited above:

Because of vaccination, approximately 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 premature deaths will be prevented among children born during [the past 20 years], at a cost savings to society of $1.38 trillion.

That pretty much says it all.


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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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