When you think about all the advances that have occurred in pediatrics — and maybe in all of modern medicine — over the last 100 years, none have been as profound as vaccinations. Deadly, contagious infectious diseases that affect children most frequently and severely — polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, bacterial meningitis — are now preventable in immunized children. Illnesses that were once common in the United States, spreading from one child to another in homes, schools, and neighborhoods, are extremely uncommon now, with pockets of infections still occurring sporadically in un-immunized individuals and communities. Worldwide, the results have also been positive, as efforts to vaccinate children — especially in the developing world — have improved. What’s also clear is that when individuals, communities, and governments drop their guard and stop immunizing people against these horrifying diseases, they rear their ugly heads once again. Contemporary examples include the polio outbreak in Syria and the 2013 measles outbreaks in Brooklyn, NY, Texas, and North Carolina.
Last week, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating the miracle of vaccines:
The researchers found that more than 100 million cases of just seven diseases had been prevented since the vaccines were introduced.
This conclusion was based on calculations using data that reached back into the previous century.
More than 20 million cases have been prevented in just the last 10 years, they found.
One hundred million cases of disease prevented translates into millions of lives saved (maybe even your own!) from the seven diseases studied (polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and hepatitis A). The number is certainly much higher when taking other diseases into account, particularly haemophilus and pneumococcal meningitis infections. How many cases of suffering and death from liver failure or liver cancer have been (and will be) prevented by the hepatitis B vaccine? How many cases of suffering and death from cervical and anal and oral cancer will be prevented with the HPV vaccine? Think of how many lives are saved each and every flu season — the lives of people who decide to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting a flu vaccine?
Yes, indeed. Vaccines are the MVP’s.