Vaccines have Transformed our World!
Before vaccines, parents in the U.S. could expect that each year:
• Polio would paralyze 10,000 children.
• Rubella (German measles) would cause birth defects and mental retardation in 20,000 newborns.
• Measles would infect 4 million people, killing 500 of them.
• Diphtheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children.
• Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) bacterium would cause meningitis in 15,000 leaving many brain damaged or deaf.
• Whooping cough (Pertussis) would kill thousands of infants. The severe cough can lead to bleeding on the brain, rectal prolapse, fractured ribs, etc.
Vaccine Challenges now:
- Disappearance of many of these diseases has led many parents to question whether vaccines are necessary. During my pediatric training in Milwaukee from 1988-1991, I took care of hospitalized children with vaccine preventable infections including:
- Chicken pox (before the chicken pox vaccine) and even saw a previously healthy child die.
- Measles (outbreaks in Milwaukee and Chicago among un-vaccinated children) with dozens of deaths from complications including pneumonia. In 1989, there was nearly 18,000 cases of measles with 41 deaths ( CDC report on measles outbreaks in 1989)
- Hemophilus influenza B (before the HiB vaccine): This bacteria caused meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis (blood infection) and epiglottitis (airway infection). Before Hib vaccine, about 20,000 children in the U.S. under 5 years old got Hib disease each year, and about 3% – 6% of them died. Since use of Hib vaccine began, the number of cases of invasive Hib disease has decreased by more than 99%. Young doctors now have likely never seen a case of HiB and trust me, that’s good!
- A growing number of parents cite unfounded concerns that vaccines cause other diseases like autism. In 1997, Wakefield and associates reported on 8 children (yes, only 8 children) with autism who had received the MMR vaccine theorizing that there had been damage to the lining of the GI tract leading to encephalopathic proteins crossing the blood-brain barrier and leading to autism. It was revealed that the behavior symptoms preceded the GI symptoms in ALL cases and by 2004, 10 of the 12 original authors retracted their authorship. In 2010, the journal Lancet officially retracted the article. Wakefield acted with “dishonesty and irresponsibility” in doing his medical research according to the General Medical Counsel. It is unfortunate that well meaning and intelligent adults still believe this mis-information.In the largest-ever study of its kind published in JAMA in 2015, researchers again found that the MMR vaccine did not increase risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This proved true even among children already considered at high risk for the disorder. In all, the researchers analyzed the health records of 95,727 children, including more than 15,000 children unvaccinated at age 2 and more than 8,000 still unvaccinated at age 5. Nearly 2,000 of these children were considered at risk for autism because they were born into families that already had a child with the disorder. JAMA article on MMR and autism 2015Epidemiological and biological studies have failed to find any association between vaccines and autism. It really is time to let go of this myth!
- Parents are less likely to see vaccine preventable diseases like polio, so they are more concerned about vaccines than disease.
- Vaccines are not without risk and while all vaccines have possible side effects, most are mild, the risk of disease far outweighs the risk of vaccine.
- Avoiding vaccines isn’t safer: Unvaccinated children are 35 times more likely to get measles and 23
times more likely to get pertussis. Unvaccinated children can start outbreaks of disease. Diseases like polio and measles will return if we don’t vaccinate!
Q: What will wake us up to the threat of vaccine preventable disease? A: Disease outbreaks!
- Measles: in 2014, 644 cases of measles (for the last 13 years, cases usually number less than 50 per year).
At Family Allergy & Asthma Care of Montana, we believe in the protection of vaccines. Be a good role model–protect yourself and your children!