Dr Ciro de Quadros, immunization champion, dies at age 74

Global Polio Eradication Initiative mourns loss of “public health leader and true hero of our times”

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Dr Ciro de Quadros, 1940-2014 PAHO

Brazilian-born epidemiologist Dr Ciro de Quadros – a leading figure in the battles against both smallpox and polio – passed away at his family home in Washington DC on Wednesday, 28 May.

“We are all saddened by the passing of Ciro de Quadros,” said Dr Hamid Jafari, Director of Polio Operations and Research at the World Health Organization.

“Ciro was an iconic public health leader and a true hero of our times. He played a key role in smallpox eradication and set the strategies for and led the region of the Americas through polio eradication and the elimination of measles and rubella. He was a champion of immunization and had an enormous impact on the reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases worldwide.”

Shortly after earning his MD in 1966, Dr de Quadros went to work in a health centre in a small town in the Amazon region of his native Brazil. Three years later, he was involved in some of the first trials of a surveillance and containment strategy that would ultimately form the backbone of the successful effort against smallpox.

After a stint as the World Health Organization’s Chief Epidemiologist for the Smallpox Eradication Programme in Ethiopia in the early-to-mid-1970s, in 1977 he went to work at the Pan American Health Organization to launch the Expanded Programme on Immunization for the Caribbean and the Americas. It was an outstanding success. The Americas became the first WHO Region to stop the transmission of polio, reporting their last case in Peru in 1991 (missing their initial target eradication date by just eight months), and measles has been kept at bay since 2002.

More recently, Dr de Quadros served as Executive Vice President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, along with providing valuable advice as a member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s Independent Monitoring Board. In April this year, he was honoured as a Public Health Hero of the Americas by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.

Dr de Quadros’ dedication to the global effort against polio is perhaps best summed up, however, by his recent and continued involvement in the work of the Independent Monitoring Board, despite battling major illness, including providing input into the Board’s latest report, due to be released on Monday.

“Those of us who knew Ciro learned a great deal from him and he inspired and motivated us. We will miss him and his wisdom greatly but will continue to be inspired by his legacy,” said Dr Jafari.

In a recent interview with the WHO Bulletin, Dr de Quadros was asked if there was anything he would have done differently:

“Nothing,” he replied. “I am so happy to have participated in so many great initiatives with such fantastic people, it was a fantastic ride that I had until now.”

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