Vaccine hesitancy: an interview with Stanley Plotkin, rubella vaccine developer

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The US vaccine expert talks to Elisabeth Mahase about the threats posed by vaccine hesitancy worldwide and the best ways to tackle it

Stanley Plotkin is something of a celebrity in the vaccine world. He’s even picked up a nickname—“the Godfather of Vaccines.” He developed a vaccine for rubella, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credited with leading to the elimination of the disease in the US in 2005. He has also helped create a human rabies vaccine, a rotavirus vaccine (part of the US’s recommended vaccine schedule for babies), and a human cytomegalovirus vaccine.1 When asked about his nickname at the International Society for Vaccines’ annual congress held in Belgium recently, Plotkin smiles. “I think it’s ambiguous, since the Godfather was a criminal,” he says. “I wouldn’t [call myself that], but obviously, I can’t stop others.” Like that famous film icon, Plotkin is from New York City. Born in 1932, he studied at the Bronx High School of Science, which counts eight Nobel prize recipients among its alumni. He went on to study medicine, spending part of his residency at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London before going on to work for the Wistar Institute, the University of Pennsylvania, and Sanofi Pasteur. Now in his 80s, Plotkin—who consults for many pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as non-profits—sat down with The BMJ to discuss vaccine hesitancy and why doctors need longer patient consultations to tackle it.