John Robbins – the man behind the meningitis vaccine – VnExpress

The meningitis vaccine has been effective in infants as well, and Robbins has also played an important role in the study of many other vaccines.

John Bennett Robbins’ most famous achievement is to create a vaccine that is effective in even infants with meningitis caused by the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria. Medical advances have been made to save 7 million lives worldwide.

For this achievement, in 1996, Dr. Robbins and three colleagues received the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award. Judge Joseph Goldstein said the Hib vaccine helped to reduce the incidence of Hib meningitis by 98% in less than 10 years. He rated this as a truly breakthrough achievement in the history of medical science.

“No vaccine has yet shown such a quick and powerful effect in eliminating a potentially fatal disease. The story of these four exceptional people makes a wonderful chapter in the history of medicine.” , the examiner commented. Accordingly, he and the evaluation board said that the achievements were comparable to Edward Jenner’s merit in eliminating smallpox, the elimination of polio of the duo Jonas Salk and Albert Bruce Sabin, as well as the merits of destroying mumps. and measles by Maurice Hilleman.

Dr. Robbins was born on December 1, 1932 in a Jewish family in Brooklyn (USA). In 1956, he received a BA in History from New York University. By 1959, also at this school, he got a medical degree. During his early career years, Robbins was a pediatrician at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Here, he trained in infectious and immunological diseases. It was also at this place that the doctor met directly with meningitis patients and witnessed the severe impact of the disease.

Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord causes many deaths. Even with antibiotics, survivors often experience brain damage that leads to mental retardation, deafness, or epilepsy. That nightmare kills more than 20,000 children every year in America and hundreds of thousands of children around the world.

All of which made Robbins decide to change his career in the future. He gradually has a desire to research to help people get rid of dangerous diseases. Determined to find ways to protect children from meningitis and other dangerous diseases, Robbins is determined to become a research doctor.

Dr. John Robbins. Image: American National Institutes of Health.

In the late 1960s, Robbins joined the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, then transferred to the National Research Institute (NIH) in 1970 as clinical director at the Eunice National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Kennedy Shriver. After that, he worked at the Food and Drug Administration for 10 years before returning to NIH in 1984. At this point, he established a laboratory on molecular immunity. Dr. Robbins continued his research career at NIH until his retirement in 2012. He died in November 2019 from complications of prostate cancer.

In his life, Dr. Robbins was known to believe in the importance of vaccination. There is a story that, in 1976, at an office holiday party, he gave a swine flu shot to anyone who wanted it. The gift at the party was a T-shirt printed with the Porky pig image, as a statement indicating the wearer had been vaccinated against the flu.

In addition to the meningitis vaccine caused by Hib, Dr. Robbins is also a key player in the research on vaccines for pertussis, typhoid fever, staph infections, E.coli and some other infectious agents.

He and a number of colleagues also received other awards such as the World Health Organization’s Pasteur Award 2006 or the Prince Mahidol Award in public health awarded by the Royal Thai in 2017.

Truong Sanh (according to the Washington Post)


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