Offit, Paul A. 1951-

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Offit, Paul A. 1951-

PERSONAL:

Born March 27, 1951. Education: Tufts University, B.S., 1973; University of Maryland, M.D., 1977; Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, postdoctoral fellow.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 34th St. and Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19104; Division of Infectious Diseases, Abramson Research Bldg., Rm. 1202D, 34th St. and Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Physician, educator, and writer. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, chief of infectious diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center; University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Henle Professor of Immunologic and Infectious Diseases. Also has served as a advisory committee member for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WRITINGS:

(With Louis M. Bell) What Every Parent Should Know about Vaccines, Macmillan USA (New York, NY), 1998, revised edition published as Vaccines: What Every Parent Should Know, IDG Books Worldwide (New York, NY), 1999, 3rd edition published as Vaccines: What You Should Know, John Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2003.

(With Bonnie Fass-Offit and Louis M. Bell) Breaking the Antibiotic Habit: A Parent's Guide to Coughs, Colds, Ear Infections, and Sore Throats, John Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.

Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases, Smithsonian Books/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to professional journals, including Vaccine, Journal of Virology, Journal of Pediatrics, Health Affairs Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of Immunology.

SIDELIGHTS:

Paul A. Offit is a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and conducts research into the immunologic mechanisms by which adjuvant measures enhance immune response. The developer of a rotavirus vaccine, Offit has written extensively about the history of vaccines and even become involved in the controversy surrounding the potential harm of vaccines, such as the possible association between autism and some influenza vaccines containing mercury. The author has readily voiced his opinion that the scientific research shows that these vaccines are safe. However, the fact that he was a codeveloper of a rotavirus vaccine that is marketed by a pharmaceutical company has brought the author criticism. Offit points out that he is not profiting from the vaccine and that his opinions are based on science, not profit.

With Louis M. Bell and Bonnie Fass-Offit, Offit wrote Breaking the Antibiotic Habit: A Parent's Guide to Coughs, Colds, Ear Infections, and Sore Throats. Offit and Bell collaborated on What Every Parent Should Know about Vaccines and its revised editions, Vaccines: What Every Parent Should Know and Vaccines: What You Should Know. The books provide information on vaccine research and development and explain how vaccines are made and work. The authors also cover the risks associated with vaccines.

The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis, published in 2005, outlines how pharmaceutical research into vaccines against influenza and childhood diseases has lagged due, according to the author, to a notorious research error in 1955. In that year Cutter Pharmaceuticals produced a batch of the Salk polio vaccine that ended up causing polio in thousands of children, of whom 200 became permanently paralyzed and ten died. The author writes about how pharmaceutical liability has been handled since then by the legal system, including the awarding of damages. The author, whose account is based on primary documents and numerous interviews, also examines government programs such as the Vaccines for Children Program and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation program. Ultimately, according to Booklist contributor Donna Chavez, the author believes that "because the U.S. has made risks high and profits negligible [in vaccine development], many more children will suffer [preventable] illnesses."

In an interview with Paul Howard on the Medical Progress Today Web site, the author commented that, although the modern fears over vaccine safety originated in the 1950s, there are major differences between then and now. "I don't think that the public was obsessed with vaccine safety in the 1950s," Offit told Howard. "Cutter Laboratories made a vaccine that had live polio-virus in it, probably in every dose at least for [the two lots mentioned in The Cutter Incident]. In effect, they were injecting live polio virus into children that was causing them to have polio and some of them to die. And yet the polio vaccination effort continued. I can think of no equivalent of that today. The Rotashield vaccine was withdrawn from the market in 1998 after only a single death."

In his book Offit shows how Cutter ultimately was both responsible and not responsible for the outbreak. For example, the author partially exonerates the company due to the fact that there was a lack of good testing at the time. However, he points out that the company deviated from standard production practices for the vaccine and knew early on that there was some kind of problem yet did not notify the government. Nevertheless, Offit presents his case that the many lawsuits against Cutter have led to a vaccine crisis. "The result, according to Offit, is today's punitive legalistic culture, in which the minutest dangers, real or sometimes imaginary, blossom into multimillion-dollar payouts, and the quest to eliminate risk, far from making medicine safer, stifles innovation and keeps promising treatments off the market," wrote David Lindley in the Wilson Quarterly. A Publishers Weekly contributor pointed out that the author also "shows how ‘the Cutter Incident’ led Salk's vaccine to be replaced by a less safe one."

In his 2007 book Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases, the author tells the story of Maurice Hilleman, a physician and microbiologist who developed and perfected vaccines for a myriad of infectious diseases, including mumps, rubella, measles, and hepatitis B. More interested in science and his job at the pharmaceutical company Merck than notoriety, Hilleman has gone largely unrecognized as one of the major contributors to the battle against disease and illness in the twentieth century. Offit's book, which draws greatly on interviews with Hilleman over the last few months of his life, provides a scientific biography of the researcher by tracing the history of vaccine research. The book includes profiles of other important figures in the field. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author "does well in capturing the evolution of vaccine technology," adding later that Offit "makes a strong case that people get more excited by miraculous cures than by vaccines that … [prevent] disease in the first place."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2005, Donna Chavez, review of The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis, p. 16.

British Medical Journal, March 25, 2006, Jonathan R. Carapetis, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 733.

California Bookwatch, August, 2007, review of Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January, 2006, I. Richman, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 888.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, December 14, 2005, Mark K. Slifka, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 2915; October 24, 2007, Mark K. Slifka, review of Vaccinated, p. 1946.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007, review of Vaccinated.

Lancet, December 10, 2005, Ivan Oransky, "Paul Offit," p. 1999.

Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Dick Maxwell, review of Vaccinated, p. 112.

Nature Medicine, August, 2006, Paul-Henri Lambert, "A Successful Vaccine That Missed Its Target," review of The Cutter Incident, p. 879.

New England Journal of Medicine, February 9, 2006, David L. Heymann, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 650; October 25, 2007, Yvonne Maldonado, review of Vaccinated, p. 1785.

Publishers Weekly, September 5, 2005, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 52.

Science, November 11, 2005, Olen Kew, "A Vaccine Disaster and Its Fateful Shadow," p. 975.

Science Books & Films, March-April, 2006, Burton Kallman, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 61.

Science News, October 29, 2005, Paula A. Offit, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 287.

SciTech Book News, December, 2005, review of The Cutter Incident.

U.S. News & World Report, January 21, 2002, Josh Fischman, "The Safety of Taking Lots of Shots," p. 60.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2006, David Lindley, review of The Cutter Incident, p. 105.

ONLINE

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Web site,http://www.chop.edu/ (January 21, 2008), physician profile of author.

Every Child by Two,http://www.ecbt.org/ (January 21, 2008), Rich Greenaway, "Paul Offit Briefs Media on Vaccine Safety Concerns."

HarperCollins,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (January 21, 2008), brief profile of author.

Injecting Sense Web log,http://injectingsense.blogspot.com/ (October 2, 2005), "Darth Offit Is At It Again."

Insidermedicine,http://www.insidermedicine.com/ (September 26, 2007), Susan Sharma, "Mercury-Containing Vaccine Safe."

Medical Progress Today,http://www.medicalprogresstoday.com/ (August 25, 2006), Paul Howard, "In the Spotlight; Public Health and Public Fears; A Conversation with Paul Offit, M.D., on the Challenges Facing Vaccine Development."

Online News Hour on PBS.org,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (January 21, 2008), Susan Dentzer, interview with author.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Web site,http://www.med.upenn.edu/ (January 21, 2008), faculty profiles of author.

Vaccinationnews.com,http://www.vaccinationnews.com/ (January 21, 2008), "Opening Statement."

Vaccinetruth.org,http://www.vaccinetruth.org/ (January 21, 2008), "Excerpted From the House of Representatives Gov't Reform Committee Staff Report."

Whale,http://www.whale.to/ (January 21, 2008), brief profile of author.

Yale University Press,http://yalepress.yale.edu/ (January 21, 2008), brief profile of author.