Vaccine pioneer Luo Guangrui dies at 101

Vaccine pioneer Luo Guangrui dies at 101

Luo Guangrui, former president of Taipei Veterans General Hospital and pioneer of universal hepatitis B vaccination for newborns in Taiwan, died at the age of 101.

The Taipei Veterans General Hospital confirmed that Luo died of multiple organ failure at the hospital last Friday, accompanied by his family.

Chen Peizhe, a scholar at the Academia Sinica and a liver disease expert, said on Sunday that Luo and his team at the hospital were among the first to promote the hepatitis B vaccine for newborns in the 1980s.

Photo: WebMD

Although research on the topic was limited at the time, Luo advocated giving the first dose of the vaccine within 24 hours of delivery because hepatitis is often passed from mother to child at birth, Chen said.

In 1984, Taiwan became one of the first countries in the world to launch a national vaccination program, which led to a sharp drop in cases of the virus over the next 10 years, Chen said.

Before 1984, 70% to 80% of Taiwanese were infected with hepatitis B, and 15% to 20% were permanent chronic carriers, making viral hepatitis complications such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer the leading cause of death in the country, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a report.

In the ensuing years — including his tenure as hospital director from 1988 to 1994 — Luo continued his clinical research on neonatal hepatitis B vaccination to prove that it was safe and effective, Chen said.

Chen said that although he only met Luo in person after he retired, he remained engaged and curious, returning to the hospital every week for medical lectures.

He said he didn’t start withdrawing from public life until his fall in his 90s.

Professor Luo’s areas of expertise include gastroenterology, hepatitis prevention, and vaccines. He graduated from the National Defense Medical Center and did postdoctoral research at the University of Washington.

Luo is also the founding dean of Taichung Veterans General Hospital and the director of internal medicine at the National Defense Medical Center.

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