Mathuram Santosham Receives 2014 Fries Prize for Improving Health

Mathuram Santosham, M.D., M.P.H., today received the Fries Prize for Improving Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for his research and contribution in fighting the deadly Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) disease. As a result of Santosham’s work, almost every country in the world has made the decision to use the Hib conjugate vaccine. Gavi, an international organization created to improve access to vaccines for children in poor countries, estimates that by the year 2020, approximately 7 million lives will be saved by using the Hib vaccine.  

“Dr. Santosham has dedicated himself to assure that all children in the world have access to life-saving Hib vaccines,” said Dr. James F. Fries, professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University and chairman of the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which in partnership with the CDC Foundation awards the annual Fries Prize for Improving Health. “Thanks to the work of Dr. Santosham, one of the most lethal diseases of children is near elimination in many countries.”

Santosham, who is regarded throughout the world as an expert in oral rehydration therapy and childhood vaccines, delivered a lecture on his formative research at the Fries Prize event.  Throughout his career, he has conducted numerous vaccine efficacy trials, including rotavirus vaccine, H. influenza type b (Hib) conjugate vaccine, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in Asia and among American Indian populations. Santosham was principal investigator of the Hib initiative, which was a $37 million grant awarded by Gavi to Johns Hopkins University to support a consortium among the university, CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to help encourage evidence-based decision making around introduction of Hib vaccines in the poorest countries around the world. As of this year, all Gavi-eligible countries have introduced the Hib vaccine, with more than 95 percent of all countries now using the Hib vaccine in their national immunization programs.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to receive the Fries Prize,” said Santosham.  “I want to thank the White Mountain Apache and Navajo tribes and all who have worked with us to prove the efficacy of the Hib vaccine and promote its use worldwide.”

Santosham is the director for the Center for American Indian Health in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also a professor in the department of international health and the department of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. He serves on numerous national and international committees on infant vaccines and oral rehydration therapy, has consulted with international agencies including WHO, USAID and UNICEF and has provided consultation in various aspects of child survival in more than 30 countries.  Santosham is also a senior advisor to Johns Hopkins’ International Vaccine Access Center and chair of the ROTA Council. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Thrasher Research Fund award for excellence in research and the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award for his contributions in the field of vaccinology.

First presented in 1992, the Fries Prize for Improving Health recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States, and with the general criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number. It is intended for an individual who has done the most to improve health. Fries Prize recipients are awarded $60,000.

The James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1991. The mission of the Foundation is to identify and honor individuals, organizations, or institutions which have made great contributions to the health of the public. The Foundation seeks to reward accomplishment rather than promise, practicality rather than theory. For more information on the Fries Foundation, visit For more information on the Fries Prize, visit

The Fries Foundation provided an endowment to the CDC Foundation for management and administration of the Fries Foundation public health award programs, which include The Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. The transition to the CDC Foundation will be completed by the end of 2015.