We’ve already told you what a cool history vaccines have and about some of America's earliest vaccine advocates. But the present is pretty great, too. Every day, vaccine advocates all around the world are fighting to prevent needless deaths -- often without much fanfare. Here is a shout-out to some of our favorite modern vaccine rock stars.
The oldest figure on our list, Hilleman spent his life inventing over 40 vaccines. Eight of those make up a majority of the 14 most commonly used vaccines. Sadly, Hilleman passed away in 2005, but his work still saves millions of lives every year. There’s a good chance you or someone you know owes their life to him.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates recognize that ensuring vaccine access is just as important to the immunization movement as developing new doses. Many countries and communities do not have access to the doses that we take for granted in America—that’s why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invests in organizations around the globe: to ensure that life-saving vaccines be available to those who need them most.
Offit is a vaccination all-star: director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, co-creator of the rotavirus vaccine, and author of several science-based books on vaccines (to highligh just a few of his many qualifications). He's also a vocal advocate for vaccination, often appearing on tv shows and news reports to debunk misinformation.
Berkley is the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi strives to erase the gap between vaccine decelopment and access. Through encouraging public-private partnerships worldwide, Gavi believes that vaccines should be available to everyone who needs them -- regardless of their ability to pay. Berkley works to make that vision a reality.
Orenstein is a living legend in the vaccine world. Over the past few decades, he's served in key roles at the CDC, Emory University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- all working to combat vaccine-preventable diseases. His impressive credentials
include overseeing efforts to eliminate rubella and measles in the United States and eradicate polio worldwide.
For decades, Plotkin has been working in the vaccine research field, authoring more than 600 publications, mostly on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. He has also sat on numerous vaccine committees and task forces, including the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Societ, of which he is a founding member. To say his work laid the foundation for many of those working in the field of vaccines today would be a gross understatement. After all, Plotkin literally wrote the book on vaccines
Among his many prestigious affiliations
, Hotez is President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute
, one of the leading organizations in the fight against vaccine inequality. Many developing countries lack vaccine access, and many diseases still lack vaccines -- like Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which disproportionately affect poor populations. Sabin works for the more than 1 billion people affected by NTDs and lack of vaccine access by striving for widespread immunization distribution and prioritizing the development of new vaccines. Hotez is also a passionate supporter of vaccines, often penning op eds
or fielding interviews
to help raise awareness of the need for vaccines against NTDs.
For more great immunization advocates, be sure to check out VaccineNation's list of the 50 most influential people in vaccines!
Who is your favorite modern vaccine rock star? Let us know in the comments below!