I’ve been reading about the Whooping Cough epidemic in California and a Polio epidemic in Tajikistan. These cases illustrate what can happen with vaccination rates fall off or are absent. As proof that vaccinations do save lives, I give you this report from Vaccine Central:
An outbreak of polio in Tajikistan has been halted thanks to vigorous vaccination efforts by 1,000 teams of doctors and nurses. The effort took three months to bear fruit, and was sponsored jointly by USAID and the Tajikistan Ministry of Health. The outbreak infected a reported 430 people, with 19 fatalities, before it was brought under control. The most recent round of vaccinations was conducted on 15–19 June . Preliminary data report coverage of 99.3, with coverage higher than 97% reported from all regions and in the groups aged 0–6 and 7–15 years. Correspondingly, no new cases of infection have been recorded since June 21st. International travelers to this area, and other areas where polio is present, are advised to check with their health care provide to ensure that they are properly vaccinated against the disease.
You can find a more detailed report at USAID.gov.
Polio is a devastating disease that often leaves it’s victims who do survive permanently paralyzed and/or forced to rely on machines just to breath. This disease has almost been eradicated, but keeps cropping up, invariably in places where vaccinations are limited or even suppressed due to fears of the vaccines themselves. Where vaccinations programs are fully carried out, the disease disappears.
To give you an idea of just how bad this disease is, in the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.* The vast majority of those affected were children.
Smallpox is another disease that has probably been the largest scourge of human-kind in all history. Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century alone.** Through an intensive, worldwide effort, smallpox was eradicate, with the last known case occurring in 1975.
There are a lot of people, mainly parents, out there who believe the risks of vaccines themselves are greater than the risks of getting one of the diseases they prevent. Here are some Vaccine Injury statistics from 2009:***
Fiscal Year Total
It was projected that about 85 million doses of vaccines would be distributed in 2009. That means that out the 85 million people vaccinated, .000000467% reported side effects serious enough to be awarded compensation from the U.S. Government. That’s a 4.67 millionth of a percent! Assuming that the number of actual side effects was under reported, you will still need almost 850,000 unreported cases to get to even 1% side effects. That means that vaccine are 99% safe. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anything else anywhere with a 99% safety record.
Vaccinating our children is one of the safest and surest ways to ensure their health and the health of the population at large. To argue otherwise in the face of over 50 years of success in either eradicating or significantly reducing the numbers of serious preventable diseases is irresponsible and morally reprehensible.
Next time you hear stories of the dangers of vaccinations, just remember, the numbers, science and data are overwhelming against them.
* Poliomyelitis, Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poliomyelitis#Eradication
*Smallpox, Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox#Eradication
***U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/statistics_report.htm