Three Vaccine Scientists Honored With The Gold Medal of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA  -- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recognized the achievements of three scientists today for their discovery of the rotavirus vaccine. Each received The Gold Medal of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, an honor last awarded in 1983.

The new rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, was invented by H Fred Clark, DVM, PhD; Paul A. Offit, MD; and Stanley A. Plotkin, MD. It is the only vaccine available in the United States for use against rotavirus gastroenteritis, a common childhood illness that is the single largest infectious disease killer of infants and young children worldwide.

Rotavirus affects nearly all children at some point, often with mild symptoms, but in other cases with severe and potentially life-threatening diarrhea and dehydration. Among children under five in the United States, it is estimated that 2.7 million episodes of rotavirus occur each year, leading to approximately 250,000 emergency room visits and up to 70,000 hospitalizations. Worldwide, approximately 600,000 children die each year from rotavirus.

"By creating a vaccine that will virtually eradicate rotavirus, Drs. Clark, Offit and Plotkin have helped to promote the health and welfare of children, our nation's greatest resource," said Richard M. Armstrong, Jr., chairman, Board of Trustees at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "In 1963, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia created The Gold Medal to recognize those who have had a profound impact on children's healthcare in the United States and throughout the world."

The Gold Medal of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is awarded to individuals or institutions that have enhanced the welfare of children through major contributions in medicine, surgery and other specialties; psychiatry and social sciences; education and research.

"At the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, our mission pushes us to continually transform pediatric healthcare so that one day, we can eradicate all childhood diseases," said Steven M. Altschuler, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Rotavirus is the next step in this transformation. Drs. Clark, Offit and Plotkin's discovery of the rotavirus vaccine will save the lives of millions of children. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is proud to award the Hospital's highest honor, The Gold Medal, to recognize their contribution to advancing children's healthcare."

The Gold Medal was last awarded in 1983 to Gertrude Henle, MD, and Werner Henle, MD, for major contributions in diagnosis and disease prevention with the creation of the mumps and influenza vaccines. In 1981, C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD, was awarded The Gold Medal for advancing the health of children through the development of pediatric surgery.

Clark, Offit and Plotkin led laboratory studies of the rotavirus vaccine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Wistar Institute between 1980 and 1991. Since 1991, the vaccine has been developed for commercial use by Merck & Co., Inc., which conducted extensive clinical trials. RotaTeq was approved for licensing by the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration on Feb. 2, 2006. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an expert panel selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, added the vaccine to the list of routinely recommended childhood immunizations on Feb. 21, 2006. Today, the vaccine is available at most pediatricians' offices. RotaTeq is delivered by mouth, in three doses, at well-baby visits at ages two, four and six months.

Source: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia