Yesterday, I got to meet a legend in the vaccine world – Dr. Samuel Katz. You probably don’t recognize his name, but he’s the reason you (and millions of others) didn’t have measles as a child. Fifty years ago, Dr. Samuel Katz and Dr. John Enders’ work to develop a vaccine against measles finally paid off and the vaccine was licensed for use in the U.S. and globally.
While speaking at the Measles & Rubella Initiative’s annual meeting at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., Katz didn’t spend a lot of time remembering the days of developing the vaccine, but instead focused on what was needed to finally stop measles. He was humble and even thanked everyone in the room for helping get the vaccine off the shelf and into countries that need it the most.
In 1963, millions of children died every year from measles. Thanks to the introduction of the vaccine by groups like the Measles & Rubella Initiative, deaths have dropped to approximately 158,000 per year. While that’s still too many children dying of an easily preventable disease, we owe a lot of thanks to the efforts of Drs. Katz and Enders.