by Jasmine Phiri
February 3, 2021
Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Nancy Messonnier, MD, is the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) and is currently leading CDC’s efforts on COVID-19 vaccine. In late 2019, Dr. Messonnier directed NCIRD to activate a center-based response to an unknown respiratory disease in China that later transitioned to a full agency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the COVID-19 response, Dr. Messonnier is leading the effort to support the COVID-19 vaccine program in the areas of distribution, administration, implementation, safety, and access for hard-to-reach populations with the goal of ensuring that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available to every American who wants one.
Since becoming Director of NCIRD in 2016, Dr. Messonnier has been a champion for the prevention of disease, disability, and death through immunization and control of respiratory and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Messonnier spearheaded CDC’s Vaccinate with Confidence initiative which works with national organizations to strengthen public trust in vaccines and prevent vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks by advancing three key priorities: Protect Communities, Empower Families, and Stop Myths. The initiative includes activities aimed at reaching communities with low flu vaccination rates or high likelihood of COVID complications such as African American and Hispanic communities.
Dr. Messonnier began her public health career in 1995 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in what is now the Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases (DDID) and has held a number of leadership posts across CDC. She served as acting Director for the Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) for four months in 2019, Deputy Director of NCIRD from October 2014-March 2016, and led the Meningitis and Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch in NCIRD’s Division of Bacterial Diseases from 2007-2012.
Dr. Messonnier has extensive experience in prevention and control of bacterial meningitis and, among other accomplishments, played a pivotal role in the successful public-private partnership to develop and implement a low cost vaccine to prevent epidemic meningococcal meningitis in Africa. More than 150 million people in the African Meningitis Belt have been vaccinated with MenAfriVac since 2010, with remarkable impact. Dr. Messonnier has also been a leader in CDC’s preparedness and response to anthrax, including during the 2001 intentional anthrax release and in evaluating simplified schedules for use of licensed anthrax vaccine.
Dr. Messonnier has written more than 140 articles and chapters and has received numerous awards. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MD from the University of Chicago School of Medicine and completed internal medicine residency training at the University of Pennsylvania.