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Ciro de Quadros

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 28 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4853

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Sophie Arie, London
  1. sarie{at}

Epidemiologist who was a driving force behind polio eradication

In the 1960s and 1970s, throughout Latin America, only 5-15% of children were vaccinated, usually only if they lived near a health centre (vast areas did not have one) and only when that health centre was not too busy.

When an outbreak of smallpox erupted in a remote area of the Amazon, a young doctor, Ciro de Quadros, on his first tour of duty after qualifying, decided to try to contain the outbreak himself, without waiting for the government to organise a vaccination campaign.

With a car, a driver, and a vaccinator, he convinced local communities to work with him to spot new cases quickly, track down everyone who might have had contact with the patient, and vaccinate these people. In less than a year, smallpox was no longer present in an area inhabited by eight million people.

De Quadros ultimately showed the Brazilian authorities that vaccinating in this way, nationwide, was possible and worth while. Until then, it had been considered an impossible task.

“His greatest achievement was showing that you could mobilise a country,” said D A …

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