After Safe Drinking Water, Vaccines Were the Second “Most Successful Medical Interventions of the 20th Century”

(p. B11) Dr. Paul D. Parkman, whose research was instrumental in identifying the virus that causes rubella and developing a vaccine that has prevented an epidemic of the disease in the United States for more than 50 years, died on May 7 [2024] at his home in Auburn, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes region. He was 91.

. . .

In 1966, Dr. Parkman, Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr. and their collaborators at the National Institutes of Health, including Maurice R. Hilleman, disclosed that they had perfected a vaccine to prevent rubella. Dr. Parkman and Dr. Meyer assigned their patents to the N.I.H. so that the vaccines could be manufactured, distributed and administered promptly.

“I never made a nickel from those patents because we wanted them to be freely available to everybody,” he said in an oral history interview for the N.I.H. in 2005.

President Lyndon B. Johnson thanked the researchers, noting that they were among the few who could “number themselves among those who directly and measurably advance human welfare, save precious lives, and bring new hope to the world.”

Still, after Dr. Parkman retired from the government in 1990, as director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, he expressed concern about what he called the unfounded skepticism that persisted about the value of vaccines.

“With the exception of safe drinking water, vaccines have been the most successful medical interventions of the 20th century,” he wrote in 2002 in Food and Drug Administration Consumer, an agency journal.

For the full obituary see:

Sam Roberts. “Paul D. Parkman, 91, Researcher Whose Work Helped to Eliminate Rubella.” The New York Times (Friday, May 24, 2024): B11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date May 21, 2024, and has the title “Dr. Paul Parkman, Who Helped to Eliminate Rubella, Dies at 91.”)

The 2002 article by Parkman mentioned above is:

Parkman, Paul D. “We Can’t Forget the Value of Vaccines.” Food and Drug Administration Consumer 36, no. 4 (July-Aug. 2002): 40.

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