Mathuram Santosham, MD, professor of international health and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, received the 2014 Albert Sabin Gold Medal Award from the Sabin Vaccine Institute at an awards ceremony outside Washington, D.C ., last month. The annual award recognizes a member of the public health community for their contributions in the field of vaccinology or a complementary field.
In announcing its award, the Sabin Vaccine Institute noted Dr. Santosham's work with Navajo children, H. Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine efficacy studies. These findings led to the elimination of Hib in North America and ultimately other western countries. The Institute also praised Dr. Santosham's role in the creation of the Hib Initiative, a project funded by the GAVI-Alliance that promotes Hib vaccines for children in low-income countries. At present all 53 GAVI-eligible countries -- which have a Gross National Income per capita below or equal to $1,570 - are using or will soon use the Hib vaccine. GAVI estimates that by 2020 the Hib vaccine will have prevented 7 million deaths.
"I am honored to receive this prestigious award from the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which is also dedicated to reducing needless human suffering by ensuring the availability of safe, low-cost vaccines," said Dr. Santosham, who is also the founder and director of the Center for American Indian Health at the Bloomberg School. "My hope is that scientists, doctors and public health advocates continue to partner with governments and communities around the world to wipe out preventable diseases. Our work against Hib diseases demonstrates what is possible."
Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among U.S. children under 5 years old before the Hib vaccine was introduced, according to the National Institutes of Health. Before the vaccine, about 20,000 U.S. children under age 5 contracted Hib disease, and about 3% to 6% of them died. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that in 2000 Hib caused between two and three million cases of serious disease and 386,000 deaths in young children.
"We are delighted to honor Dr. Santosham for his advancements against Hib diseases, which caused unnecessary suffering and death prior to his landmark findings and integral policy guidance," said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. "His unwavering commitment to scientific discovery and service to marginalized communities in every country mirrors the late Dr. Sabin's core mission and has inspired countless other public health achievements."
The Sabin Vaccine Institute also noted Dr. Santosham's landmark research on oral rehydration solution (ORS) - known as Pedialyte - which became the standard care for treating diarrheal dehydration and has saved over 50 million lives since 1980.
The Institute presented the Albert B. Sabin Award to Dr. Santosham at a dinner held in conjunction with the National Foundation for Infectious Disease Annual Conference.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute promotes vaccine research and campaigns in the spirit of Albert Bruce Sabin, the medical researcher who developed the oral polio vaccine credited for reversing the polio epidemic in the twentieth century.