Paul Offit

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For the American businessman, see Morris W. Offit.
Paul A. Offit
Paul Offit.jpg
Born (1951-03-27) March 27, 1951 (age 64)[1]
Nationality American
Occupation Pediatrician
Known for Developing a rotavirus vaccine, public advocacy for vaccines
Spouse(s) Bonnie Offit[3]
Awards Maxwell Finland Award (2013)

Paul A. Offit (born 27 March 1951) is an American pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. He is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives every day. Offit is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He has been a member of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.[4] Offit is a Board Member of Every Child By Two[5] and a Founding Board Member of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF).[6]

Offit has published more than 130 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety,[4] and is the author or co-author of books on vaccines, vaccination, and antibiotics. He is one of the most public faces of the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism, and has, as a result, attracted controversy and a substantial volume of hate mail and occasional death threats,[7][8] but also support for his position.[4][9]


Offit grew up in Baltimore, the son of a shirtmaker. He went to his father's sales meetings and reacted negatively to the tall tales told by salespeople, preferring instead what he saw as the clean and straightforward life of science.[10] When he was five years old, he was sent to a polio ward to recover from clubfoot surgery; this experience caused him to see children as vulnerable and helpless, and motivated him through the 25 years of the development of the rotavirus vaccine.[4][11]

Offit decided to become a doctor, the first in his family.[12] Offit earned his bachelor's degree from Tufts University and his M.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. One of his mentors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was Maurice Hilleman, who developed several of the major vaccines in use today.[10]

By 2008 Offit had become a leading advocate of childhood immunizations. He was opposed by vaccine critics, many of whom believe vaccines cause autism, a belief not supported by scientific data. He received a death threat and received protection by an armed guard during meetings at the CDC.[4] His 2008 book Autism's False Prophets catalyzed a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the U.S.[7] He donated the royalties from the book to the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[13] Offit serves on the board of the American Council on Science and Health.[14]

Rotavirus vaccine[edit]

Main article: Rotavirus vaccine
Paul Offit (right) along with H. Fred Clark. Clark and Offit are two of the three inventors of the rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq,[12] which is credited with saving hundreds of lives a day.[4]

Offit worked for 25 years on the development of a safe and effective vaccine against rotavirus, which is a cause of diarrhea,[8] and which kills almost 600,000 children a year worldwide, about half as many as malaria kills; most deaths are outside the West.[7] His interest in the disease stemmed from the death of a 9-month-old infant from rotavirus-caused dehydration while under his care as a pediatric resident in 1979.[8][11]

Along with his colleagues Fred Clark and Stanley Plotkin, Offit invented RotaTeq,[12] a pentavalent rotavirus vaccine manufactured by Merck & Co. RotaTeq is one of two vaccines currently[when?] used against rotavirus.[7]

In February 2006, RotaTeq was approved for inclusion in the recommended U.S. vaccination schedule, following its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.[7][15] Premarketing studies found that RotaTeq was effective and safe, with an incidence of adverse events comparable to placebo.[16] RotaTeq has been credited (by Peter Hotez) with saving hundreds of lives a day.[4] Offit received an unspecified sum of money for his interest in RotaTeq.[10] Offit was elected a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, in 2015.[17]

Smallpox vaccine[edit]

In 2002, during a period of fears about bioterrorism, Offit was the only member of the CDC's advisory panel to vote against a program to give smallpox vaccine to tens of thousands of Americans. He later argued on 60 Minutes II and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that the risk of harm for people getting the vaccine outweighed the risk of getting smallpox in the U.S. at the time.[12]

Action against dietary supplements and alternative medicine[edit]

In December 2013, Sarah Erush and Offit declared the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has a moratorium on the use of dietary supplements without certain manufacturers' guarantee for quality.

Our hospital has acted to protect the safety of our patients. No longer will we administer dietary supplements unless the manufacturer provides a third-party written guarantee that the product is made under the F.D.A.’s “good manufacturing practice” (G.M.P.) conditions, as well as a Certificate of Analysis (C.O.A.) assuring that what is written on the label is what’s in the bottle.

Offit and other leaders at the Children's Hospital are leading the effort to expose a 22-billion-dollar industry and challenge the use of non-regulated drugs.[18] This decision is well supported by studies of Myocardial Infarction[19] and also Cognitive Function in Men.[20]

Alternative medicine is defined as quackery by Offit when it involves unappreciated harm and replacement of conventional therapies that work, with alternative therapies that don't. His books and articles warn against expense and risk to health for recipients of alternative therapies.

His review of protection for the sale of supplements in America has resulted in calls for reform. The "1994 Health and Education act should be overturned" to provide for proper oversight and action against supplement providers.[21]

At NECSS 2014


Offit is a recipient of numerous awards, including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School, the Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development from the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the 2013 Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement and a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health.[13]

In 2011 Offit was honored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization with the 2011 Biotech Humanitarian Award.[22] Offit donated the award’s $10,000 prize to the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.[23] Also in 2011, Offit was elected to the Institute of Medicine at the group's annual meeting.[24]

Michael Specter wrote that Offit "has become a figure of hatred to the many vaccine denialists and conspiracy theorists." Specter reported that Offit had often been threatened with violence by anti-vaccine advocates, necessitating precautions such as screening Offit's packages for mail bombs and providing guards when Offit attends federal health advisory committee meetings.[25] At a 2008 vaccine activism rally in Washington, D.C., environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. criticized Offit's ties to drug companies, calling him a "poster child for the term 'biostitute'."[10] Curt Linderman Sr., the editor of the Autism File blog, wrote online that it would "be nice" if Offit "was dead".[12]

Such vilification has provoked statements in Offit's defense. Peter Hotez, a professor and vaccine researcher at George Washington University, has been quoted in a Newsweek article:

Peter Hotez ... says government health officials should take a bolder stand in reassuring the public. Hotez feels as strongly as Offit does about the science (saying vaccines cause autism, he says, "is like saying the world is flat"), but, like other busy scientists, he's less willing to enter the fray. "Here's someone who has created an invention that saves hundreds of lives every day," says Hotez, whose daughter, 15, has autism, "and he's vilified as someone who hates children. It's just so unfair."[4]


Offit has written or co-written several books on vaccines, vaccination and the public, and antibiotics, as well as dozens of scholarly articles on the topic. Isabelle Rapin, a neurology professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, wrote in Neurology Today about Autism's False Prophets:

This book explores why parents, seeking in vain for a cure and for an explanation of their child's problem, are so vulnerable to false hopes and to the nasty predators who have from time immemorial always taken advantage of the desperate in our society. ... [Offit] became outraged by Dr. Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study in the Lancet that blamed the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for causing autism. Dr. Offit predicted the paper would precipitate a resurgence of measles and its serious complications, and even deaths–a prophecy soon realized.[26]

In "The Cutter Incident", Offit describes fallout relating to an early poliovirus vaccine tragedy that had the effect of deterring production of already licensed vaccines and discouraging the development of new ones. Vaccine exemptions allowed for faith-based reasons are opposed by Offit, who advocates for the repeal of religious exceptions on the grounds that they amount to medical neglect.[27]


  • UK title: Killing Us Softly: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine
  • Offit, Paul A. (2005). The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10864-4. 
  • Marshall, Gary S; Penelope H. Dennehy; David P. Greenberg; Paul A. Offit; Tina Q. Tan (2003). The Vaccine Handbook: A Practical Guide for Clinicians. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 978-0-7817-3569-8. 
  • Offit, Paul A. and Louis M. Bell (1999). Vaccines: What Every Parent Should Know. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-863861-4. 
  • Offit, Paul A.; Louis M. Bell (2003). Vaccines: What You Should Know ((third edition) ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-42004-0. 
  • Offit, Paul A; Bonnie Fass-Offit; Louis M. Bell (1999). Breaking the Antibiotic Habit: A Parent's Guide to Coughs, Colds, Ear Infections, and Sore Throats. John Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-31982-5. 

Medical articles[edit]



  1. ^ "Paul A. Offit 1951-". Contemporary Authors. 1 January 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Paul A. Offit, MD
  3. ^ Mastrull, Diane (10 July 2012). "A doctor's new career prescription: Frozen yogurt at the Shore". Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Kalb C (2008-11-03). "Stomping through a medical minefield". Newsweek 152 (18): 62–3. PMID 18998447. 
  5. ^ "Every Child By Two Scientific Advisory Board". Every Child By Two - Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization.  External link in |website= (help);
  6. ^ "ASF Founding Board Member Dr. Paul Offit Elected to the Institute of Medicine". Autism Science Foundation. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d e McNeil DG Jr (2009-01-12). "Book is rallying resistance to the antivaccine crusade". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-13.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nyt" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  8. ^ a b c Avril T (2008-09-17). "Expert sees no link between vaccines and autism". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  9. ^ Author: Vaccine Book Brings Out Hidden Support After Death Threats. Reuters, February 18, 2009
  10. ^ a b c d Fagone J (June 2009). "Will this doctor hurt your baby?". Philadelphia. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  11. ^ a b Campbell G (2009-01-30). "Interview with Dr. Paul Offit, MD, on vaccine safety" (PDF). Books and Ideas.  Podcast (MP3). Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  12. ^ a b c d e Wallace A (2009-10-19). "An epidemic of fear: how panicked parents skipping shots endangers us all". Wired. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  13. ^ a b "Author royalties from autism book donated to autism research" (Press release). Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 2008-11-03. 
  14. ^ "Meet the Team". American Council on Science and Health. 
  15. ^ Russell S (2006-02-04). "FDA OKs safer vaccine for children". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  16. ^ American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (2007). "Prevention of rotavirus disease: guidelines for use of rotavirus vaccine". Pediatrics 119 (1): 171–82. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-3134. PMID 17200286. 
  17. ^ "Ten Distinguished Scientists and Scholars Named Fellows of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry - CSI". Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  18. ^ Kabat, Geoffrey. "Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia Bans Dietary Supplements From Its Pharmacy". Forbes. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Lee, Kerry L.; Gervasio A. Lamas, Robin Boineau, Christine Goertz, Daniel B. Mark, Yves Rosenberg, Mario Stylianou, Theodore Rozema, Richard L. Nahin, Lauren Lindblad, Eldrin F. Lewis, Jeanne Drisko, (2013). "Investigators; Oral High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After Myocardial Infarction A Randomized Trial.". Annals of Internal Medicine 159 (12): 797–805. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00004. Retrieved 18 December 2013.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  20. ^ Sesso, Howard D.; Francine Grodstein, Jacqueline O’Brien, Jae Hee Kang, Rimma Dushkes, Nancy R. Cook, Olivia Okereke, JoAnn E. Manson, Robert J. Glynn, Julie E. Buring, J. Michael Gaziano, (December 2013). "Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in MenA Randomized Trial.". Annals of Internal Medicine 159 (12): 806–814. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00006. Retrieved 18 December 2013.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  21. ^ Colanduno, Derek (9 September 2013). "Do You Believe In Magic?" (Audio). Skepticality Podcast. Skeptic Magazine. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ George, John (2011-06-29). "CHOP doctor who developed rotavirus vaccine honored". 
  24. ^ Stencel, Christine (October 17, 2011), IOM Elects 65 New Members, Five Foreign Associates, Institute of Medicine, retrieved October 19, 2011 
  25. ^ Specter, Michael (2009). Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-59420-230-8. 
  26. ^ Rapin I (15 January 2009). "High Hopes, Shoddy Research and Elusive Therapies for Autism Examined and Exposed" (Book review). Neurology Today 9 (2): 23. doi:10.1097/01.NT.0000345037.57123.0b. 
  27. ^ Offit, Paul A. (May 10, 2013). "End religious exemption". About Philly.Com. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 

External links[edit]