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Vaccines make it so that we do not get illnesses that used to lay people low. The vast and huge benefit of vaccines should not be overlooked. Even if vaccines somehow magically caused autism (Hint: they don't, and the "doctor" whose paper started that whole kerfluffle in The Lancet had his MD taken away and also The Lancet printed a retraction) for 1 in 1,000 children, they would STILL do more good than harm to the population as a whole.
What have vaccines done for us? They have saved lives. Not hundreds of lives. Not thousands of lives. Millions upon millions of lives have been saved due to vaccines.
Smallpox has been eliminated from the modern world. The last person, ever, to get smallpox was in 1978, in a lab environment. The last person to catch it in the wild was in 1977. Thank you, vaccines!
Okay, say you. OTHER THAN SMALLPOX (which is not a real disease to your average thirty-year-old ANTI-VACCINATION mom), what have vaccines ever done for us?
Well, lots of stuff. Let's look at diphtheria. In the 1920's in the US, there were approximately 150,000 cases of diphtheria per year, with around 13,000 deaths resulting (so, mortality there was pretty close to 1 in 10), every year. Diphtheria death rates for the young were about twice that bad, running approx. 20% for those under age five. If your baby caught diphtheria back then, odds were 1 in 5 that your baby died. The most-recent confirmed case of diphtheria in the United States occurred in 2003. Thank you, vaccination.
Measles. People used to die from measles, but not really all that many, comparatively (to smallpox, to diphtheria)... but a hell of a lot of people CAUGHT measles. In 1951, the CDC reported half a million cases. For the next ten years, data ranged from a high of 750,000 (1958) to a low of 393,000 (1959). Call it half a million cases a year. By 1967, there were 62,000 cases of measles. 22,500 in 1968, 25,271 in 1969, 46,775 in 1970... what the hell happened there? It looks like 9 out of 10 persons infected with the measles simply disappeared. It might help to mention, at this juncture, that the first commercial measles vaccine was licensed in the US in 1963. Vaccination is what happened to those cases of measles. In 2012, there were about 55 cases of measles in the United States. Yay vaccines!
Polio. Polio was a real danger when my parents (born in 1942) were young. No polio vaccine existed at all before 1950. By 1962, the oral Sabin vaccine was licensed for use. In 1951 (the CDC's weekly morbidity and mortality reports are all online and free to download. The early ones are here: The First 30 Years. They are fascinating reading and where most of the numbers I am throwing around come from.) there were 28,478 cases of polio in the US. There were 56,948 in 1952, 35,566 in 1953, 38,396 in 1954, 29,146 in 1955... and by 1965, there were 39 cases of polio. Thirty-fucking-nine. Wow. 1966 had 99, 1967 had 44, 1968 had 57, 1969 had 17, 1970 had 31. By 1975, polio had been moved to "Notifiable diseases of low frequency" status in the US's CDC reports. In 2012, the ENTIRE WORLD had 162 cases of polio. (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, we're looking at you.) Where'd all the polio go? Thank you, Dr. Sabin, and your oral polio vaccine!
Pertussis. Not doing so well there. We started vaccinating for it in the 1940's. After that, cases dropped to around 5,000 per year for about twenty-five years, but then they started to pick up again in the 1990's. In 2012, there were 41,880 cases. The new vaccine (DTaP, used since the 1990's) does not last as long as the old (DPT) one, and apparently now it's wearing off. The medical establishment is working on what to do about this and I expect they'll get back to us with a recommendation eventually.
Mumps, we're not totally losing at, but there was an outbreak in 2009-2010 brought back from England by a boy who traveled there. The mumps vaccine isn't entirely effective and some 3200 people in the US (mostly vaccinated, but again, the vaccine isn't all that great) caught the disease before they got it locked down again. Mumps cases used to (pre-vaccine-days) run around 150,000 per year, so we're doing quite a bit better than we would be doing without vaccines.
Rubella, or german measles, is not endemic to the US anymore. Since 2002, all cases in the US have been definitively traced to foreign sources of transmission. It's basically extinct here (like polio and diphtheria). Rubella used to cause birth defects when pregnant ladies caught the disease. Immunization is still important because you (or your neighbor or the person in line behind you at the grocery store or your co-worker or whatever) could travel abroad and catch the disease in some wreck of the third world, bringing it home as a souvenir.
Chicken Pox. When I was a kid, you actually got chicken pox because there wasn't any vaccine for it. I had it, my brothers had it, and that was kind of how it went. I didn't know anyone who died of it, it was just something kids got. Kids now do not actually get chicken pox because the vaccine came out in 1995. (I was born in 1970.) From 2000 to 2010, the incidence of varicella declined by 82%. Source Wow. More interestingly, varicella incidence among infants, a group not eligible for varicella vaccination, declined by 90% from 1995 to 2008 -- this is because of Herd Immunity. All the grown-ups have already had chicken pox. People my age got it when they were kids, mostly. People who were vaccinated (the post-1995 group) can't catch or spread it, either. The only group that varicella had to work with was the "hasn't had it yet" set of young people... and when enough of them were vaccinated, there was nobody for varicella to spread TO, so it died down.
Herd Immunity is what finally removed smallpox from the world. Herd Immunity is what is going to knock off polio, hopefully before the last of its victims have died, so that they can see it gone from the world.
What does vaccination do? It makes the world a better place.
|Date:||March 1st, 2013 11:58 pm (UTC)|| |
What good do vaccines do? Do your genealogy folks. Why not check out your own family? Flu epidemics in early 1900s killed my great grandmother; diptheria epidemics killed great uncles and aunts as children--both sides of Jessica's family. In one case of my Ohio- Iowa Campbell line 13 children born, 9 died of diptheria and typhoid. Whooping cough killed young boys in Tamaqua, PA in 1880's. We know their names, and they were lost to us forever.