Dr. Stanley Plotkin — known as the “Godfather of Vaccines” — helped to eradicate rubella from the United States after his life-saving inoculation became available in 1969. Now, he is working with pharmaceutical companies to help stamp out COVID-19, according to CNBC.
The NYU alum — who has also worked on vaccines for anthrax, polio, rabies and rotavirus — said he’s optimistic about eradicating coronavirus too.
“I have considerable hope for a [coronavirus] vaccine, but people have to understand that it’s not something like in the movies where you can develop it overnight — that it’s safe and effective overnight,” he told the outlet.
Although he did say scientists today have more resources than they did when he was working to end rubella, also known as the German measles.
“One of the big differences is that today, which is 40 years later, we have many different ways of developing vaccines. Now there’s something like 40 different projects to develop vaccines, with about half a dozen being far advanced,” he said.
“Today we have ways of using the nucleic acids — the DNA or the RNA — constructs of the virus. We can use proteins. We can use vectors.”
Plotkin, who is a pediatrician and vaccinologist, developed the vaccine against the rubella virus while working at Wistar Institute in Philadelphia in the 1960s, after a rubella pandemic swept across the United States and infected an estimated 12.5 million people, according to the CDC.
Rubella is a contagious viral disease with symptoms similar to the measles. It can cause serious birth defects in children, and can be fatal for both unborn babies and newborns, if a mother becomes infected while pregnant.
Rubella was eventually eliminated from the United States in 2004.