Hans Cohen

Hans Herman Cohen (3 February 1923 – 14 May 2020) was a Dutch microbiologist. He was director-general of the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) between 1984 and 1986. As a microbiologist Cohen worked on development of polio vaccines in the Netherlands.


Cohen was born in Groningen on 3 February 1923.[1] In 1954 he started working for the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid, a predecessor of the RIVM.[2] His initial wish was to start working on a polio vaccine but he was rebuffed as there was not yet a government vaccination order.[3] However, during the 1950s and 1960s he worked on the development of the Salk polio vaccine.[4] In the 1970s Cohen together with Jonas Salk and Charles Mérieux founded the Forum for the Advancement of Immunization Research (FAIR).[5]

During his time as director-general of the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid he oversaw the merger with two other institutes per 1984, which resulted in the formation of the RIVM.[6] Per 1 January 1984 he was appointed director-general of the RIVM.[7] His term ended in 1986. The Dutch Council of Ministers subsequently nominated him as head of the Commission for environmental effects rapport [nl].[8]

In 1992, after a minor polio outbreak in the Netherlands, he protested against the offer of a free polio vaccine to around nine million persons not in risk groups, calling it a "waste of money".[4]

Cohen was elected a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.[9] In 1986 he was named Commander in the Order of Orange-Nassau.[10]

Cohen died on 14 May 2020 in Bosch en Duin, aged 97.[11]


  1. ^ D. J. van de Kaa; Kaa; Y. de Roo (19 December 2008). De Leden Van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen: Een Demografisch Perspectief: 1808 Tot 2008. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 372–. ISBN 978-90-6984-552-4.
  2. ^ Simon Rozendaal (23 April 2014). Vaccinatie. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 38–. ISBN 978-90-485-2289-7.
  3. ^ "Polio in Staphorst" (in Dutch). Andere Tijden. 3 November 2007. Archived from the original on 20 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b Wim Köhler (26 September 1992). "Zonde van het geld, al die vaccinaties". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 27 December 2017.
  5. ^ Bernard Seytre; Mary Shaffer (22 August 2005). The Death of a Disease: A History of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis. Rutgers University Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-8135-3786-3.
  6. ^ Christine Holmberg; Stuart Blume; Paul Greenough (28 February 2017). The Politics of Vaccination: A Global History. Manchester University Press. pp. 128–. ISBN 978-1-5261-1093-0.
  7. ^ "Mededelingen en bekendmakingen" (PDF) (in Dutch). Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Nieuwe voorzitter Commissie voor de Milieu-effect-rapportage" (in Dutch). Wageningen University and Research Centre. Archived from the original on 28 December 2017.
  9. ^ "H.H. Cohen". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 27 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Personalia" (in Dutch). Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde. 14 October 1986. Archived from the original on 17 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Hans Herman Cohen". NRC Handelsblad. 16 May 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2020.