Today marks the conclusion of Pediatric Alliance’s participation in the AAP Immunization Social Media Toolkit Pilot. We had a lot of fun here at The PediaBlog over the last 8 weeks meeting pediatric practices from around the country and sharing ideas on tools and strategies to improve communication with our patients and families about an extremely important topic. I was struck from speaking with my colleagues just how much vaccine hesitancy and denial still exists in the United States. I was also pleasantly surprised that during the 8-week project, The PediaBlog received no negative feedback opposing the memes and essays we posted. I think it is a testament to the level of education and understanding parents in southwestern Pennsylvania demonstrate to pediatricians every day in our offices. The science surrounding immunizations can be complicated, and real news can easily be obscured by the fake variety. But the simple fact is vaccines are exceedingly safe and miraculously effective.
Have a look at the chart at the top of this post. For each vaccine-preventable infection, you can see the incidence of disease before and after the vaccine was licensed. Here is another graph and explanation about measles using data from the CDC and the U.S. Census Bureau:
In the pre-vaccination era, more than 90% of Americans were infected with measles by the age of 15 (roughly 4 million people per year). Not all cases were reported to the public health system and reported cases averaged 542,000 per year from 1956 to 1960…
As you can see…, measles used to peak in 2–3 year epidemics until the introduction of measles vaccines in the 1960s.
Here is another graph. As you can see, measles has gone from lots of cases of sickness and death to a flat line near zero since 1991 in the U.S. The reason — high rates of vaccinations with two doses of MMR (one at 12 months, one at 4 years):
Let’s look at the miracle of polio vaccine. Note the spike in the number of polio cases during the Second World War and postwar years. Then look at the decline in cases after the Salk vaccine came out in 1955. With the arrival of the oral Sabin vaccine, the bottom fell out:
How about diphtheria? Once a common disease that caused considerable illness and death — again, look at the spike during WWII and the postwar years — the vaccine essentially eliminated diphtheria from the differential diagnoses of my generation of pediatricians evaluating children with sore throats. I know I never saw a case of it. (It’s likely my father and his cohort of physicians also encountered very little if any diphtheria once vaccinations against it became commonplace.)
The same is true with every vaccine present today in the immunization schedule for children.
There is a myth that vaccines really aren’t responsible for the plummeting rates of vaccine-preventable infections in children. Rather, the magical thinking goes, it’s from better nutrition or improved sanitation available to people living in modern societies. But as these graphs clearly demonstrate, it is the introduction of life- and limb-saving vaccines that results in millions of lives not lost and billions of dollars saved.
It’s pretty simple: Vaccines work!
(Back pat: MVP Kids Care, Avondale, AZ)