2014 Federal Employee of the Year: Rana A. Hajjeh and the Hib Initiative Team

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There was a time not too long ago when nearly 400,000 children were dying each year of bacterial meningitis and pneumonia in developing nations all over the world. Yet a safe and effective vaccine against the culprit organism, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), had virtually wiped out the problem years earlier in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. In parts of Africa and Asia, numerous obstacles limited the vaccine’s use. Many children who survived the diseases, meningitis in particular, were left with crushing disabilities, such as mental retardation and deafness. Dr. Rana Hajjeh, a longtime medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked nearly nine years to close this tragic gap. Using a remarkable combination of gentle force, science and cultural sensitivity, she led a global campaign that convinced 60 countries to adopt the vaccine’s use.