Innovation

Vaccines: our history, our legacy

MSD and its legacy companies have been working to discover and develop vaccines for more than a century.

April 10, 2016

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"An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here. Stop. I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin. Stop. Mail is only form of transportation. Stop."

Dr. Curtis Welch

This was the desperate radio telegram in January 1925 from Dr. Curtis Welch in Nome, Alaska, to all the major Alaska towns, to territorial Governor Scott Bone in Juneau, and to the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington, D.C. Diphtheria was spreading through the icebound community. Children had already died, and the local supply of diphtheria antitoxin had expired the previous summer.

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674 Miles
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5 Days
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300,000 Units
vaccines history vials

More than a century of vaccines

In 1895, the H.K. Mulford Company began marketing the first commercially available diphtheria antitoxin produced in the U.S., the very medication that helped avert the diphtheria epidemic in Nome. Today, MSD has a significant presence in vaccine discovery, development and distribution in both human and animal health.

Dr. Maurice Hilleman

The vaccine pioneers

MSD’s Dr. Maurice Hilleman belongs to a distinguished group of vaccine pioneers — including Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. Dr. Hilleman is credited with helping to develop more than forty vaccines and his impact on public health is undeniable.

Protecting public health is a worldwide challenge

MSD is working with national health ministries and non-government agencies to help write new chapters in the public health success story through partnerships, demonstration projects, donation programs, and technology transfer agreements.

“Vaccines are a powerful force of health and health development, and their globalization is not just a business necessity but a public health obligation. MSD is on a mission to ensure that more people can access our vaccines, regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances.”

Julie L. Gerberding M.D., M.P.H.

executive vice president & chief patient officer, MSD

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