Anti-Vaxxers Take Note: Vaccines Have Prevented 100 Million Serious Childhood Diseases In U.S. Since 1888


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Publicly launched earlier this week, Project Tycho has assembled data on contagious disease rates in the United States since 1888. The non-profit effort is named after astronomer Tycho Brahe whose careful observations enabled Johannes Kepler to figure out the orbits of planets in our solar system. Based on the data, a new report in The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that over 100 million cases of serious childhood illnesses have been prevented in the U.S. since 1924 by vaccination programs against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

The Washington Post reported:

What emerges is a detailed picture of how 56 infectious diseases have affected the American landscape since the late 19th century — and what interventions have proved most effective in stopping them. By comparing reported outbreaks of polio, smallpox and other diseases with the dates when vaccines for each came into use, researchers were able to document the life-saving role those drugs played.

"We saw these very abrupt declines of incidence rates across the country," said lead author Willem G. van Panhuis, assistant professor of epidemiology at the university's Graduate School of Public Health, known as Pitt Public Health. Ultimately, he and his co-authors estimated that the introduction of vaccines had helped prevent 100 million cases of serious childhood diseases, a figure they said is worth remembering during a time when critics have raised questions about the necessity of vaccines.

"We really hope this will ignite debate about the use of vaccinations, and that it will provide a new piece of evidence," van Panhuis said. "We hope this will give this whole discussion a new dimension."

Although the NEJM article did not estimate the number of deaths avoided through vaccination, the New York Times noted:

Dr. Donald S. Burke, the dean of Pittsburgh's graduate school of public health and an author of the medical journal article, said that a reasonable projection of prevented deaths based on known mortality rates in the disease categories would be three million to four million.

The scientists said their research should help inform the debate on the risks and benefits of vaccinating American children.

Pointing to the research results, Dr. Burke said, "If you're anti-vaccine, that's the price you pay."

For more background on the relative safety of vaccines see my post, "For Pete's Sake, Go Get Your Kids Vaccinated Already!" And until you can control your own infectious disease vectors so that they don't harm anyone else, don't bother asserting that it's your "right" to endanger others. See also, Harm Principle.

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  1. Right, but vaccines are part of evil technology-centered patriarchal science, that seeks to dominate nature rather than understand it and embrace it. That’s why so many vaccines require injections (an act of primal penetration) as a delivery method. It’s phallocentric medicine.

    A more intuitive, nature-centric, feminist ethos of medicine would see past the illusion of our failed modern science, and reach back to the simpler, more honest practices of medieval herb-women and witches. They knew what REAL healing was.

    1. *claps enthusiastically*

    2. + voodoo handjobs

    3. Fluffy you scare me…..!

    4. I’d say it needs something more explicitly anti-capitalist, but otherwise, very well done.

    5. This would be much funnier if I didn’t meet raving idiots who apparently believe it, or something damn close.

    6. “They knew what REAL healing was.”

      And when I get that feeling, I want…

  2. Vaccination is a social responsibility. Like not driving drunk or not smoking around people who don’t want to breathe in your nicotine.

    1. Would you send your kid to school with kids of parents that don’t believe in Vaccines?

      1. I don’t know about other places but my experience here in OK is that if you tell the school/boy scout/church group that you are ideologically opposed, they provide a waiver.

        So your children already go to school with other children who have not been vaccinated.

      2. Yes. It would not matter because the deadly diseases they might carry would be no threat to them.

    2. Uh, no. Vaccination is a defensive issue. As a matter of social responsibility it’s up there with carrying a handgun everywhere you go.

      Now, coughing on people. That’s right up there with other invasive actions. Such as drink driving, blowing smoke in someone’s face, and voting.

      1. Except that you are counting on children to not cough on each other, wipe snot on things they shouldn’t be, etc. I agree that it is defensive, but to keep these diseases largely eradicated, it would be in society’s best interest for all to be vaccinated.

  3. I have a friend who is a “Homeopathic Practitioner”.

    I recently found out she is also anti-vaccine, which did surprise me a bit because she has made statements indicating she understands the basics of epidemiology.

    Really, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because “Homeopathy” and epidemiology don’t mix well either. Just shows how people compartementalize their thoughts, I guess.

    Also, Fluffy wins today’s internets.

    1. I have an ancestor who was one of the first Homeopathic Physicians around. He was educated at Harvard and then in Germany.

      Some generations of my family have have gone on as advocates of homeopathy in spite of the fact that Pasteur came up with the germ theory of disease.

      1. I like homeopathy as a front line. People seek medical treatment for stupid reasons, and are often given a round of antibiotics for mild viral infections. If they put their faith in a (literal) sugar pill and feel better, I think everyone has been well served. The problem is with people who swear by homeopathy and don’t seek treatment for something more severe.

        1.|11.29.13 @ 3:31PM|#
          “I like homeopathy as a front line.”

          Doing nothing saves a couple of bucks for the same result.

          1. Why can’t people just learn to drink?

          2. Not necessarily. How much we believe in a placebo makes a difference in its efficacy.

            I don’t believe in homeopathy, so I don’t spend my money on it. I just don’t have a problem with it as a method of treatment provided it doesn’t supplant medical care in serious situations.

    2. Obamacare will not decrease the rates for chiropractic. To wit:


      (a) PROVIDERS.? A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable State law.

      In other words, any type of fringe medicine practiced under a license issued in accord with state law will be reimbursed regardless of whether or not there is any scientific basis in the practice of such.

      That means I can now get my Oscillo (Oscillococcinum) script filled at taxpayer expense (once I reach my $6,000 copay). For those in the dark about Oscillococcinum can read as there is a dearth of info at the Oscillo website noted before. If you don’t want to bother with all of that clicking, I have quoted the Wikipedia article:

      The preparation is derived from duck offal diluted to a ratio of one part to 10^400 parts water.

      And homeopaths wonder why most view their beliefs as bizarre. SHEESH!

      1. What does any of that have to do with chiropractic? People who go to chiropractors generally don’t do so because they want their subluxations healed and their innate intelligence restored. They do it because they have back pain and spinal manipulation has been fairly well demonstrated to help with that.

        Agreed – fuck the homeopaths. I’m just curious as to what that has to do with chiropractors, when most people use them to provide a particular form of treatment with pretty good results.

  4. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Why is it that in a recent outbreak of whooping cough in India, the rate of infection was significantly HIGHER in those vaccinated against the disease, AND the symptoms were more severe? Same thing with shingle in the US. Huh? Anyone? Beuler? Beuler?

    1. Cites, or flake off.

    2. I’ll take ‘Because it didn’t happen’ for a thousand, Alec.

    3. Guessing this will be ‘self-reported’ survey. And the numbers will never be checkable.

  5. But Monsanto has an obvious incentive to create vaccines which turn humans into lizard people, or something.

    /Daily Kos or Zero Hedge? Flip a coin, both sides win.

    1. And face it, Lizard people are more suited to mine work than children, who are better used as monocle polishers.

    2. Why go all the way over there when the crazy is right above you?

    3. The worst part is that they genetically engineer those vaccines to only last a year. So people have to pay to be lizards over and over and over again.

  6. I haven’t read the whole “study” (don’t have an NEJM subscription) and I have mixed views on benefits of, and problems with vaccines. But this seems like obvious propaganda masquerading as a “scientific” study.

    Look at the CDC’s own numbers on deaths from infectious diseases from 1900 to present:…..4829a1.htm

    In 1900, there were 800 deaths per hundred thousand from infectious diseases. BEFORE the time penicillin began to be widely used (around WWII), that had dropped to 200/100,000. By the 1950’s, BEFORE the polio vaccines were introduced, that had dropped to 100/100,000, pretty much where it has stayed, including when the Vaccination Assistance Act was passed in the early 1960’s.

    The reasons for the precipitous drop in infectious disease deaths in the first half of the 20th Century are so obvious they escaped the Pittsburgh “researchers” — better nutrition, clean water, modern sanitation, improved hygiene. In other words, all those things that give us strong, effective natural and adaptive immunity.

    So, just how could these “researchers” make such nonsense claims about how many deaths MIGHT have been avoided going back to 1888 from vaccines?!

    If you are a fan of vaccines, go for it! Give in to the CDC’s annual scare tactics to get yourself “flu” vaccinated. But give me a break from this kind of junk science “research!”

    1. I should amend the above to note that the “study” was claiming fewer “cases” of infectious diseases since 1888. But death is the obvious end point of a serious disease, and if all those “cases” could have been avoided with vaccines, how is it possible that we had such a massive reduction in deaths BEFORE widespread vaccination? Answer: it is not possible. Once again, propaganda, not “science.”

      1. “Answer: it is not possible.”

        No one claims vaccination is the ONLY way to cut the death rate, but I’ll bet you knew that.

        1. So what is your point? Mine is that this study DOES attribute its theoretical 100,000,000 fewer childhood infectious disease cases almost exclusively to vaccines. This is propaganda, not science.

          1. “Mine is that this study DOES attribute its theoretical 100,000,000 fewer childhood infectious disease cases almost exclusively to vaccines”

            If you had a valid point, you wouldn’t have to lie:

            “Public health action to control infectious diseases in the 20th century is based on the 19th century discovery of microorganisms as the cause of many serious diseases (e.g., cholera and TB). Disease control resulted from improvements in sanitation and hygiene, the discovery of antibiotics, and the implementation of universal childhood vaccination programs.”…
            See that Terry? Quit lying, luddite.

            1. See? The government is necessary to keep us safe and healthy! Now, about that death-in-a-bottle you call “soda pop”…

              1. If I could keep death in a bottle, the first thing that I’d…

      2. The death rate due to infectious disease doubled in the span of 1-2 years when the influenza epidemic of 1919/20 hit. The rate regressed to pre-1900 levels even though it had declined by nearly that amount up to that point in time. How do you explain that? Hygiene programs didn’t simply cease. We didn’t start doing less.

        The death rate due to infectious disease declined for a variety of reasons but a major factor was that we also got better at treating the disease, managing the symptoms, and keeping the patients alive long enough to recover. That creates a huge disconnect between the rate of infection and the rate of mortality. You’ll have to look at the actual rate of infection and not your inference and you’ll have to control for the other factors as well. I haven’t read the paper because it’s paywalled and I’m not interested enough to get my wife to give it to me, but you haven’t come close to providing evidence that the paper is wrong (but I also don’t know that the paper is *right* because, again, that reading thing).

        1. (OOOPS. Posted the silly thing in the wrong place!)

          Go here to read it and then get back to me with your informed opinion.

          Point. Set. MATCH!

          1. Read it. It seems they’ve done quite a bit of analysis here. They also state their limitations pretty well. As I’m not willing to go through their numbers in detail, I’ll accept that 100 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases have been prevented by vaccination.

  7. Go here to read it and then get back to me with your informed opinion.

    Point. Set. MATCH!

  8. “We really hope this will ignite debate about the use of vaccinations, and that it will provide a new piece of evidence,” van Panhuis said. “We hope this will give this whole discussion a new dimension.”

    Debate among whom? And for what reason?

    Obviously, debate among our elected officials concerning just how much power the government should have to compel vaccination on the population. Once we compel vaccination, it’s only a short step to compel excercise, healthy diets, and safe sex with condoms and goggles.

    1. Meh. This is one of the least offensive things that government does. If we’re in the age of health care paid for by government, this seems like a no-brainer.

      Standard disclaimer about the role of government, how the free market could have dealt with the public health issues, etc.

  9. What is the moral difference between me not being vaccinated and passing along a disease and me being vaccinated and it failing and me passing along a disease? Intentions?

    1. Intentions are a big one. There is a legal difference between hurting someone due to reckless indifference and due to plain bad luck. Both at the criminal and civil levels. It would be interesting to see how vaccinations in a free market would be treated on a legal level.

  10. That’s a load of crap. My Mom had us all vaccinated from the usual childhood diseases and we still caught hellacious cases of mumps and measles. As a matter of fact, I caught the damned chickenpox when I was 14. It’s a racket.

    1. Vaccines are not 100% effective for all people. They reduce the aggregate chance of catching a disease. Some unlucky souls will still get sick.

      1. If we’re talking about things like MMR, your notion that it is ineffective is absurd. MMR rates have gone to damned near zero since the introduction of the MMR vaccine. The only place outbreaks occur is areas in which vaccine utilization is very low. That’s pretty damning evidence.

        1. The only place where you might be somewhat right about this is the flu virus, as you list below, simply because there are so darned many strains, owing to its extreme mutation rate.

  11. The flu shot is a joke, a well. They will never be able to inoculate people to protect them from the millions of virus strains.

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