More evidence of the good that vaccines do

Anti-vaccination activists really irritate me. They make alarmist claims based on little or no science (or worse, based on pseudoscience), and enough people believe them that they fail to vaccinate their children against very preventable diseases. Yes, like any other medical therapy, there can be complications from vaccinations and even a few rare fatalities. However, by almost any measure the risk-benefit ratio is tilted so far in favor of routine vaccination for the common diseases we vaccinate against that in the vast majority of cases it requires resorting to fallacious arguments and evidence even to try to argue otherwise.

Yesterday, the New England Journal of Medicine published yet another piece of evidence supporting the efficacy of childhood vaccination. Doing a retrospective analysis of mortality data, Nguyen et al showed that, since the start of universal vaccination against varicella (the virus that causes chickenpox) in 1995, yearly deaths due to varicella in the U.S. in 2001 plummeted by almost 2/3. This decline occurred not just in children but in adults under age 50, as well.


  1. But the vast majority of this can be put down into the introduction of PUBLIC SANITATION - not all this VACCINATION, which is a FRAUD UPON THE PULIBC!!!!!1!!

    Oh, 1995, you say? Oh... er... um... er...

  2. Whew!

    You had me worried for a second.

    Of course, if the anti-vac crowd who hangs out in sees this post, I may get some serious abuse...

  3. oh my god, there's this guy on the conservative am radio station here in austin, big anti-vaccination activist. even had some so-called expert on his show to talk about it. i was livid. something about a bill being proposed in texas saying that children in school wouldn't have to have their shots if they had a note from their parents. i think i was literally screaming obscenities at the radio.


  4. Unfortunately, anti-vaccination mania isn't restricted to just conservatives. Liberals love it too. There was a story I recall from a month or two ago about how whooping cough rates are rising in a very wealthy, town in the liberal heart of Oregon (if I recall correctly) because so many of the parents were refusing to vaccinate their children. If I can find the link again, I'll post it; but it may be lost in the ether. I did find this related link, but it was not the one I had in mind. This article describes a liberal town in Colorado (10% voted for Nader) in which only half the children are vaccinated and how childhood diseases are making a comeback. The statements by some of the anti-vaccination parents are frightening. One woman in particular, whose children all got pertussis, with one of them getting very sick from it, is downright scary.

  5. i can see how they rationalize it. it's almost like choosing to eat organic (do these people feed their children unpasteurized milk, too?). with attitudes like that mother's, there needs to be a major public health push to increase awareness of the real consequences, and to dispel some of the misinformation that's out there. to me, what that mother did is tantamount to neglect and endangerment.


  6. The answer to your question, is yes, they do feed their kids unpasturized milk! A good many of them do anyway.

    I get very frustrated when I start hearing these arguments. It causes autism, it causes this, it causes that it cause ... yada yada yada ...

    Let me tell you, first, there is no real evidence that it does, and it's been proven over and over again. Second, the diseases that they protect from are far more insiduous than autism ever even DREAMED of being. I can say this, my son was misdiagnosed with autism till he was 9 years old. (at which point, he got a proper diagnosis, and treatment and 'outgrew' the autistic like behaviors) I know what autism does to a family. I know what it does to a child.

    I also know what these diseases do ... something that the baby boomers and younger have no clue. WE just don't know the iron lungs, and the physical therapy and the braces and the pain and the DEATH and the torture that the generations before us lived through.

    My husband is one of the last to get polio in California (in 1958) as a 3 year old. He lived for months in an iron lung. He has severe muscle atrophy, he has severe scoliosis, he would have been 6'4'' had he not had polio and he's 5'4 on one foot and 5'0'' on the other ... some days, it's 5'3'' not 5'4'' ... go figure. He's very large boned but weighs all of 98 lbs and looks like he's survived the halocaust.

    If you want to know just how skinny he is, go to last weeks grand rounds ...there was a link to large shoulders ... there is a picture of a guy with a muscle waisting disease, he looks JUST like my husband only with straight back.

    THAT'S what these diseases we're protecting our kids do to people.

    They cause death and destruction. The vaccinations save lives and save quality of lives.

    I had seizures following my DPT shot, within 30 min of my first one, clear up till I was 23. I'd do it again in a heart beat. When I saw what my husband had to live through & survive ... a few seizures ... was nothing compared to what the disease would have done if it'd taken my life.

  7. Great post. Shameless plug... I've just written a post here about the notional link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

  8. Anecdotes are not evidence, but...
    one of my patients lost her three year old to chickenpox encephalitis, and you can bet she immunized her surviving children as soon as the vaccine was available.
    Imagine knowing that your child died of a disease that you could easily have prevented, but you chose not to.

  9. Ok Orac,
    I dare you to call any local school district (metroplitan areas only, not some school district in the backwoods) in the country and ask the special ed. dept. if they are seeing a rise in students with autism. Post your results here on your site if you have the guts to. It may not be mercury, but it could be the result of autoimmunity resulting from the change in the vaccine schedules of children. I dare you.


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