Straight, No Chaser In the News: New, Old Findings on Vaccines
If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will. You’ll want to read until the end.
The most recent edition of the medical journal Pediatrics this week publishes the results of three new studies that individually are convincing and together are definitive. This really isn’t news; the public health and medical communities have been speaking with one voice on this for nearly a century. However, given all the recent misinformation disseminated, it’s important to continue to drive home the point that vaccines save lives.
Let’s summarize the three studies.
Rotavirus was once an extremely common cause of infant diarrhea, causing hospitalization and even death due to diarrhea and dehydration. A rotavirus vaccine was developed. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on previous usage rates, during the first four years of vaccine use, more than 176,000 hospitalizations, 242,000 emergency department visits, and 1.1 million doctor’s visits among children under 5 were prevented, saving approximately $925 million in the U.S.
Chickenpox actually kills, especially adults and those with compromised immune systems. Prior to development of the chicken pox vaccine, approximately 11,000 people were hospitalized a year in the United States from chickenpox. According to a study performed by the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, in the fifteen year period between 1994 and 2009, the chickenpox vaccine slashed the number of hospitalizations by 90%, across all age groups.
The recent measles outbreak has previously been discussed in Straight, No Chaser, but a 2011 outbreak was highlighted in detail in Pediatrics, and yes, the study speaks to the consequences of going without immunization. The CDC is clear that current measles outbreaks are due to parents withholding vaccines from their children, and this review could be the proverbial Exhibit A. The Minnesota Department of Health identified an outbreak infecting 21 people, with an average age of 1-year-old and whose parents in the community had largely withheld the measles vaccine. About 67% of those infected were hospitalized, mostly due to breathing complications and dehydration.
An interesting post-script to the findings in Minnesota directly involves the source of widespread misinformation about the measles vaccine (actually the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine; they’re all given together). The author of a discredited 1998 research paper that is the source of the alleged link between vaccines and autism had visited this community approximately four times, convincing many residents to go without the measles vaccine. This author, Andrew Wakefield, actually lost his right to practice medicine in England, and the journal that published his study retracted the paper linking autism and vaccines. However, you probably hadn’t heard that part of the story, and the autism-vaccine link continues in mythology via the internet and ill-informed “advocates.”
The story of diseases and vaccines is actually pretty linear and historically consistent.
- There were a series of infectious diseases that once wreaked havoc on society, often killing mass numbers of humans.
- Vaccines were developed to prevent infections (and their complications) from these microorganisms.
- Mass vaccinations markedly reduced (and actually eliminated in some examples) the rate of contracting these diseases to where we take for granted the danger of the actual disease (discussing what it was like in the US when polio was a common disease would be an interesting conversation to have with your grandparents if you can).
- Certain segments of society opt out of getting immunized over fear of the vaccine.
- At some point when the vaccination rate drops below a certain percentage, the diseases return in those not immunized.
I welcome your questions. Discuss your legitimate concerns with your physician or experts personal healthcare consultants such as we offer at 844-SMA-TALK and www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com. Protect your families. Without exception, if a vaccine exists, you should fear the disease more than the vaccine.
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