The recluse hero invents over 40 vaccines to save the world

Orphanhood and growing up during the Great Depression did not prevent the efforts of Maurice Hilleman, the "reclusive hero" of world medicine, the father of more than 40 vaccines to save lives.

Maurice Hilleman was born in difficult circumstances, his twin sister died at birth and his mother died two days later. The youngest of eight siblings, Hilleman grew up with her aunt and uncle on a farm on the outskirts of Miles City in eastern Montana, USA.

At the farm, he learned how to raise chickens - a skill he believed to make him sufficiently knowledgeable in breeding chickens to study the prevention of avian influenza later in the United States. By the time he was about to graduate from Custer County High School in 1937, Hillman had a job working at a local JC Penne grocery store.

As a result of the Great Depression that lasted until the 1940s, his life might have stopped behind the door of a grocery store if Hillman's brother did not persuade his family to find a way for him to go to college. Because of his outstanding efforts, Hillman received a scholarship at Montana State University, topped the class and continued to study microbiology at the University of Chicago.

Devote your life to science

Hilleman is a prime example of hard work and breakthrough achievements, even if most Americans don't know his name. After decades of working in the pharmaceutical industry, he has developed more than 40 vaccines, 9 of which are among the 14 essential vaccines for children - including measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A, and hepatitis. B and meningitis - helps protect millions of children around the world from serious illnesses and premature deaths.

'One of his accomplishments is enough for a person's entire life , ' said Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who wrote memoirs about Hilleman.

A vaccine is never enough for Hilleman. His wife and daughters recalled the way he always carried a handwritten note in his pocket, a list of the illnesses he still wanted to seek treatment.

Picture 1 of The recluse hero invents over 40 vaccines to save the world
Hilleman is a prime example of hard work and breakthrough achievements, even if most Americans don't know his name. (Photo: AP).

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the American Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, met Hilleman in the 1980s while researching an AIDS vaccine. Hilleman was a legend now, both in the scientific community and in his private life, with a daring and sometimes gruff manner. The two later had a strong friendship and good scientific research colleagues.

'I remember hearing his name, and I thought, "Oh my God, when will I ever meet this guy," Fauci said in an interview. The two remained close until Hilleman died in 2005.

Now Fauci stands at the center of attention as the world is hunting for a solution to the Covid-19 disease that has infected more than 5 million people and infected at least 338,000 people globally, including over 100,000 in the US alone. He was 'cautiously optimistic' with developments in his current search for vaccines; The first human trials with government-supported vaccines have yielded positive results, though many are skeptical.

However, it is necessary to balance the research speed and the safety of vaccines, something that Hilleman always cares about, according to Dr. Fauci. With his style, Hilleman will be willing to 'confront' when people are engrossed in political controversy to complete the job carefully but quickly.

Thinking about saving people is first - what America needs to learn from Hilleman

Hilleman's ability to win hearts and resources was an important factor in 1957, when he persuaded chicken farmers in the United States not to kill roosters in order to protect public health after receiving them. Reports from Hong Kong signal the arrival of an influenza pandemic. By understanding the seasonal chicken breed production cycle of each farm assistant, with the foresight of the need for fertilized eggs, he helped ensure the country had enough raw materials for mass vaccination. the vaccine he developed.

Compared to Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, two of the most successful vaccine developers in history, Hilleman is not as well known as them. According to Dr. Fauci, there are two reasons. Firstly, Hilleman does not work at academies. And second, more importantly, Hilleman doesn't care about reputation. He was not listed on scientific papers; His only motivation is to make a vaccine to save people.

Picture 2 of The recluse hero invents over 40 vaccines to save the world
Hilleman's one-year-old daughter, Kirsten (in the middle, along with her sister Jeryl Lynn and doctor Robert Weibel) became the first to receive the mumps vaccine. (Image: Getty Images).

Despite his entire career on the East Coast, Hilleman never stopped talking about his homeland. There is also an academic support program named after him at the University of Montana (MSU), which he studied, to detect and support high school students in Montana who cannot afford to go to higher education.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said the story of Hilleman - the story of a poor child who had the opportunity to go to college and eventually saved the lives of millions - proved the power of education.

"When we gave him a chance, he took advantage of it and became the greatest vaccine-savior in human history," said Cruzado. "I used to be at it every night and wonder how many Maurice there are Hillemans too out there. '

Lorraine Hilleman argues that it was her husband's childhood on the farm, the death of his mother at labor and his early sense of loss that motivated him to contribute to the vaccine. Because his hometown, Miles, was severely affected by the 1918 flu pandemic, and Hilleman grew up in stories about the struggles and pains of many families.

'He has great motivation to prevent everyone's suffering, and he cannot stand to see people afflicted with illness,' said Lorraine Hilleman. 'Growing up in harsh circumstances, he learned persistence from a very young age.'

In a 2016 documentary, Hilleman expressed his concern about personal accomplishments: 'Looking back on a life, you suddenly say, "God, what have I done? I've done enough to deserve existence. at me or not? " and that is a great worry '.

His eldest daughter, Jeryl Lynn Hilleman, whose name was given to a mumps virus strain, wished she could talk to her father in moments like now.

'He will answer the phone, read, study, collect as much information as possible, and at the same time do his best, an incentive to motivate others to be productive , too, ' she said. 'He wasted no time'.

Picture 3 of The recluse hero invents over 40 vaccines to save the world
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the American Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stands at the center of attention as the whole world is hunting for a solution to the COVID-19 disease that kills at least 338,000 people globally and No vaccine yet. If in his position, Hilleman will be ready to "confront" when people argue politically to get the job done carefully but quickly. (Image: Getty Images).

During the last years of his life, Hilleman was troubled by the anti-vaccine wave in his home country. Opposition groups using the vaccine are aimed at insults and life-threatening words, both of which have only been a threat to public health since the past decade.

In the midst of the current pandemic, many people fear there is a cross between the wave of vaccines and protests in some states of social isolation orders and many other preventive measures.

Dr. Fauci once said the only answer was to pursue true science and find a solution from there. The Hilleman family also believes that if he were to live, he would do the same.

'He has finished his work, and what he will continue after he dies.'

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