“I once had a 12-year-old girl come into the emergency room with paralysis in one of her legs. We eventually diagnosed her with polio – the only patient with polio I’ve ever seen. The family had chosen not to immunize her .for any of the vaccine-preventable diseases. The father was so tearful and angry. And all I could think was, ‘You turned your back on the very thing that could have saved your daughter from this.'”
-David Kimberlin, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist (Landau, 20 II)

Anti-vaccine movements are premised upon the unfounded belief that vaccinations are dangerous. It isn’t the vaccinations that are dangerous, but the diseases they were created for. Americans, unfortunately, seem to have forgotten that, since we rarely see these diseases anymore. It’s allowed a sense of complacency to develop in the general public.

Patsy Stinchfield, nurse practitioner and director of immunology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, warns that “to not vaccinate cold potentially cause the death of a child, and that has happened here in Minnesota. And to not follow the schedule that has been scientifically documented and proven has its consequences.” (Manning, 2-16-2009)

“I used to say that the tide would turn when children started to die,” says Dr. Paul Offit. “Well, children have started to die. So now I’ve changed it to ‘when enough children start to die.’ Because obviously, we’re not there yet.” (Wallace, 2009)

In 2010,10 children in California alone died from a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak, the worst seen in the state since 1947. The trend has only gotten worse. 2012 was the country’s worst year for pertussis since 1959, with more than 38,000 cases reported nationally, leading to the death of 16 infants and children. (Wenner-Moyer, 2013B)

“Our investigations looked at hundreds of thousands of children in Colorado and compared the risk of various vaccine-preventable diseases in children whose parents had refused or delayed vaccines, compared with children whose parents had them vaccinated,” report Mathew Daley and Jason Glanz. “We found that unvaccinated children were roughly 23 times more likely to develop whooping cough, nine times more likely to be infected with chicken pox, and 6.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia or pneumococcal disease than vaccinated children from the same communities. Clearly, the parental decision to withhold vaccination places youngsters at greatly increased risk for potentially serious infectious diseases. These results also show tilt: !laws ill the ‘free rider’ argument, which erroneously suggests that an unvaccinated child can avoid any real or perceived risk of inoculation because enough other children will have been vaccinated to protect the untreated child.” (Daley & Glanz, 20 II, p. 34)

Some doctors have even started barring kids from their practice if parents refuse to vaccinate. This isn’t to be cruel or send a message, but for safety purposes: “We had unvaccinated children come in with whooping cough, sitting in a waiting room with babies [who are too young to be vaccinated],” says Dr. Scott Goldstein of the Northwestern Children’s Practice in Chicago. “We’ll see the same problem with measles as people decline vaccinations for that, too.” (Kluger, 20 II)

The forgotten carnage of vaccinated illnesses

“It took her getting measles.for me to reali::e how dangerous it was. ”
-A custodial grandmother who skipped the vaccine; her granddaughter then developed measles as a teen and nearly didn’t survive it (Whalen & McKay, 2013)

One of the problems is that since they’ve been largely eradicated, people have forgotten about the death and devastation these diseases pose. “Before small pox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people,” writes Amy Wallace. “And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns. Measles infected 4 million children, killing 3,000 annually, and a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b caused Hib meningitis in more than 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage.” (Wallace, 2009) And these numbers are actually conservative; much lower than many other prevalence estimates.

To put this toll in perspective, fill up a giant football stadium with nothing but children and then maim or disable all of them with crippling disabilities and permanent brain damage. Then add around _ 9/11 terrorist attacks, again, comprising only children as victims. This was the collective toll these diseases exacted on Americans each and every year. If there were several 9- I I type terrorist attacks targeting America’s schoolchildren each year, parents would be up in arms. But because these diseases are a distant memory for younger generations, parents have become complacent.

Read more about he threat posed by vaccine-preventable diseases:

  • Pertussis
  • HPV
  • Measles