Samuel L. Katz Dies: A vaccine was licensed in the spring of 1955, but by the time an outbreak of polio hit the Boston area that summer, it was too late. The city’s pediatric wards were rapidly overrun by the influx of nearly 2,000 polio patients.
Samuel L. Katz Dies: Measles vaccine Developer Dr. Samuel Has Passed Away At 95!
Children’s Hospital had such long waiting lines that doctors and nurses stayed up late with flashlights examining patients, some of whom were lying limp and hot in their parents’ arms. Samuel L. Katz, a third-year resident, aided with the triage process. That was it; he had found his calling.
Dr. Katz met with John Enders, who shared the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work isolating strains of the polio virus, as the polio epidemic began to subside. A vaccine against measles, a highly contagious virus once common among children and blamed for up to 2.6 million deaths annually around the world, including hundreds in the United States, was produced with Dr. Katz’s crucial participation for almost a decade.
Dr. Katz, who passed away on October 31 at the age of 95 at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C., was quoted as saying, “I came along at the right time, in the right laboratory, with the right colleagues.”
When Did He Help Doctors To Develop Vaccines?
This vaccine was developed during a pivotal period in pediatric medicine when other long-standing hazards like polio, rubella, and mumps were all successfully contained.
After graduating, Dr. Katz went on to have a successful career in virology and pediatrics, during which time many public health problems, including AIDS, the covid epidemic, and the emergence of anti-vaccine movements, occurred.
Dr. Katz, who served as the pediatrics department chair at Duke University’s medical school for over two decades, is now an emeritus professor there.
The measles vaccine prevented an estimated 17,1 million deaths between the years 2000 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. (The World Health Organization reported almost 17,000 cases of measles worldwide in January and February, up from 9,665 in the same period last year; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have documented 33 cases of measles in the United States so far this year.)
The measles virus had already been isolated from David Edmonston, a local schoolboy when Dr. Katz arrived at Enders’ lab in Boston. The difficulty lay in discovering how to produce a weakened (or “attenuated”) virus that could serve as the vaccine’s basis. Dr. Katz confirmed the use of embryonated chickens’ eggs in an interview with the podcast “Open Forum Infectious Diseases” in 2014.
More than a dozen times, the “Edmonston virus” was transmitted through chick embryos to weaken it. The Enders-led group, which included a research researcher from Yugoslavia named Milan Milovanovic, subsequently injected it into monkeys.
The traditional symptoms, such as fever and rashes, never manifested in the monkeys, nor did viremia (the presence of the virus in the circulation). Contrarily, the monkeys were protected by antibodies. And with that, we were off, as Dr. Katz put it.
Human trials during a less-regulated era of vaccine research highlighted some of the ethical concerns that arose, such as when Albert Sabin used federal prisoners in Chillicothe, Ohio, for late-stage polio vaccine investigations in 1954 and 1955.
The Enders group visited the Walter E. Fernald State School for children with serious neurological problems in Waltham, Massachusetts. Approximately 20 patients were selected and their parents gave their permission, according to Dr. Katz.
Dr. Katz stated in the podcast, “We injected these youth with the chick cell virus and observed them daily.” Yes, we took samples from your throat. There were blood cultures taken. They also never developed viremia or throat infections due to viruses. The crucial step had been taken, so to speak.
The results were originally reported in the New England Journal back in 1961. The number of inquiries rapidly increased.
British pediatrician David Morely in Nigeria sent letters and telegrams. He pleaded for the vaccine trials against measles to be extended to Nigeria, where the death rate from the disease can reach 15%.
Dr. Katz’s research in Nigeria revealed crucial information for worldwide vaccination campaigns, such as the fact that infants with measles frequently discontinued breastfeeding due to mouth sores and subsequently became critically dehydrated. Measles vaccination programs in Nigeria and elsewhere now incorporate simple hydration therapies.
When Measles Vaccine Approved?
In 1963, the FDA approved the first measles vaccine for use in the country. (It was included in the MMR vaccination, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, in 1971.)
Dr. Katz’s service on the CDC’s advisory council on immunization procedures from 1982 to 1993, according to Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory University Vaccine Center in Atlanta, was significant in defining U.S. public health policies. He realized that “it’s not the vaccines that save lives, but the vaccinators,” as Orenstein put it. Unused vaccination has no effect.
Naval health care
In Manchester, New Hampshire, where his father began his daily drive to Boston as a railway executive, Samuel Lawrence Katz was born on May 29, 1927. Dr. Katz enrolled at Dartmouth College as an undergraduate in 1944, but he dropped out the next year to join the Navy.
They tested us after we finished basic training and told us, “Oh, you’re a clever lad. In 2009, Dr. Katz told a Dartmouth alumni magazine, “We’re going to send you to college. So I lied and said, “No, no, I just came from college.”
His post found him in San Diego, at a medical academy that would serve as a training ground. He reflected, “That was my first exposure to medicine.”
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Who Was Samuel L. Katz?
After the war, he enrolled in Dartmouth’s preclinical program for two years and graduated in 1948. Doctor Katz earned his M.D. from Harvard University.
Dr. Katz, following his time with Dr. Enders, became the pediatrics department head at Duke University School of Medicine in 1968 and remained in that position until 1990, when he resigned to focus on his research, which included new approaches to HIV treatment and prevention in children.
After a brief marriage to Betsy Cohan, Dr. Katz eventually divorced her. Catherine Wilfert, his second wife and a pioneer in the study of AIDS in children passed away in 2020.
David L. Katz, Penelope Katz Facher, John Katz, Deborah Miora, William Katz, Susan Calderon, and two stepchildren, Rachel Wilfert and Katie Regen, as well as their combined 17 grandchildren, are among his surviving children and grandchildren from his first marriage. Samuel L. Katz Jr., a son from his first marriage, passed away in 1980.
David Katz has announced his father has passed away, although he has not revealed the reason
Dr. Katz received the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal in 2003, one of several honors for which he has been recognized. Over the years, he published a commentary on various medical problems, some of which were controversial.
He argued against the use of medical professionals in lethal injections in prisons and pushed for restrictions on the patents that allow pharmaceutical companies to keep cheaper generic versions of their products off the market.
Vaccine skeptics and anti-vaxxers, who falsely believe that vaccines cause autism and other neurological problems, were another target of his ire. In 1999, at a hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform, Dr. Katz described life before numerous common immunizations.
“Most young parents cannot appreciate, fortunately, as I do the horror of polio with iron lungs and crutches; measles with encephalitis; meningitis due to Haemophilus influenza B; tetanus of newborn infants with overwhelming mortality; and a number of the other infectious diseases that we, fortunately, do not see,” he testified.
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Despite their many benefits, he continued, “it is true that vaccines are not flawless.” Vaccines have greatly increased life expectancy and reduced disease rates in the United States and around the world, but they are not without their flaws. The benefits of vaccines, however, much outweigh any potential hazards, and this is a truth that can’t be properly denied.
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