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Why Vaccines Matter

Yes.  Vaccines matter.  This is a scientific fact, not a matter of opinion.  Vaccines prevent 6 million deaths every year worldwide.  They have fundamentally changed modern medicine.

In 1950 The World Health Assembly undertook to rid the world of smallpox through systemic vaccinations.  The smallpox disease killed millions of people in the 20th century.   By 1980 the disease had been completely eradicated.  Routine vaccinations are no longer necessary.

The whooping cough vaccine was introduced in 1948.  That year 150,000 people were treated for whooping cough.  By 1956, that number was zero.  In 1955, 40,000 people contracted polio.  Ten years after Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine, there were only 61 cases.

In 1963 (the year the measles vaccine was introduced) there were around 400,000 cases of measles in the United States.  By 2000, the average number of measles cases dropped below 100.

Even though the United States fundamentally eradicated measles in 2000, the disease is making a comeback.  Last year there were 644 cases of measles.  In 2016, more than 100 people in 14 states were diagnosed with measles.  The source of that outbreak was traced to Disneyland in California.  In 2010 an outbreak of pertussis, whooping cough, resulted in the deaths of ten infants in California as well as a statewide outbreak of 7800 cases.  This outbreak was felt to be the result of low immunization rates.

Low immunization rates in developed countries, such as the United States, are due in a large part to the rise in the anti-vaccination movement.     Owing to fears of a connection between vaccinations and autism (and other health maladies), the anti-vaccination movement encourages parents to not vaccinate their kids.  A 2013 Center for Disease Control meta study added to the large body of evidence that vaccines do not cause autism.

This is about more than the right of parents to voluntarily opt out of childhood vaccinations.  This is a public health issue.  The effectiveness of vaccines relies on “herd immunity.”  When we vaccinate children, we are not only helping a child who doesn’t yet have the immunity to prevent disease, we are also helping older citizens and people with disabilities who have lost their ability to fight disease.  The more communities that opt out, the more likely that the disease will spread.  And we live in communities, not vacuums.


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