April was also a time to honor the memory of Maurice Hilleman, PhD, upon his death at 85 years of age. Dr. Hilleman (photo at left) had a hand in the creation of almost every vaccine on the recommended childhood schedule, and was so modest that none of them is named for him. The strain of mumps virus that Dr. Hilleman used to create the mumps vaccine is named after his daughter, Jerri Lynne, however, because her swollen lymph nodes were the source of the culture for that vaccine. The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine that resulted from Dr. Hilleman's work has been so effective that, last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the total eradication of rubella in the United States.
And a final April anniversary: the 10th of the month, marking the advent of the varicella vaccine 10 years ago in clinical practice. According to a just-released survey conducted by the National Partnership for Immunization, the national coverage rate for this vaccine had reached 84.8% of children between 19 to 35 months of age by the end of 2003. An estimated 600,000 children in that age group remained unvaccinated against chicken pox, however, in the same year.