(WUSA)-- It was a glamorous night at the Newseum, for the 2013 Research & Hope Awards given by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.
WUSA9's Anita Brikman was the emcee, and presented one of the awards to Dr. Linda Fu of Children's National Medical Center.
Dr. Fu leads the vaccine program that has helped CNMC increase immunization coverage among District of Columbia children by 16% in one year, a gain that has now been sustained for eighteen months.
Dr. Fu says, "We put into place reminder systems, for when vaccines are due or overdue. We worked with the local department of health to really bring children in for care who may not be linked into the system."
Now Dr. Fu's project is being adopted by pediatric practices from Alaska to Florida. But she says too many parents still shy away from some vaccines because of misinformation, fear of side effects, or lack of understanding of their benefits.
It is a recurring frustration for public health officials, including the director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden.
He was the keynote speaker at the Research & Hope Awards and says, "Vaccines are partly a victim of their own success. They have reduced diseases so much, people have forgotten how deadly these diseases are."
John Castellani, president and CEO of PhRMA adds, "Diseases I grew up with... smallpox, polio... they no longer exist because of groundbreaking vaccines. But today, we can talk about (new vaccines against) cervical cancer. We can talk about malaria, which takes so many lives around the world."
Last night's vaccine pioneer award winners included a team of scientists from GlaxoSmithKline. It is a team that has spent almost 30 years developing the first malaria vaccine, which could benefit millions of children, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The other honorees are two researchers at the National Cancer Institute, Douglas Lowy, M.D. and John Schiller, Ph.D., who helped develop the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer.
BioCentury This Week will air a special vaccine edition with more of the PhRMA award winners' achievements on Sunday, September 22nd. It airs at 8:30am on WUSA9.