Thanks to Vaccines, Children Are Safer; People Are Lifting Their Guard Now That Diseases Are All but Eliminated

By Soud, Gary | The Florida Times Union, July 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Thanks to Vaccines, Children Are Safer; People Are Lifting Their Guard Now That Diseases Are All but Eliminated


Soud, Gary, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Gary Soud

Vaccines are victims of their own success.

In the 1970s and 1980s, you could not walk into any children's hospital in this country without seeing several children with severe infections such as bacterial meningitis and sepsis (bacteria infecting the bloodstream). Many of those children died because of those infections, were left with severe brain damage, or survived with disabling complications.

Now, these infections have become uncommon.

Thanks to vaccines.

During the same period, as many as 10,000 children were paralyzed by polio; 20,000 newborns with mental retardation, birth defects or deafness; 4 million cases of measles with as many as 500 deaths every year, according to the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Diphtheria was the most common cause of death in children. A bacterium called Hemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib) would cause 15,000 cases of meningitis alone, and pertussis (whooping cough)awould kill thousands of infants.

In the 21st century, two cases of diphtheria have been reported in the United States, the last 10 years ago. Hib as a source of meningitis cases has almost been eliminated. While pertussis is not uncommon, the number of cases and infant deaths have decreased dramatically.

Thanks to vaccines.

Globally, measles mortality was reduced by 74 percent - from 535,300 deaths in 2000 to 139,300 in 2010, according to a World Health Organization study.

Smallpox has been eliminated from the entire world and polio has been eliminated from North and South America.

Thanks to vaccines.

Immunization currently averts an estimated 2 million to 3 million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles, WHO reports.

It seems as if many major diseases have been eliminated. So, why do our children still need vaccines?

The answer lies in the development of the jet age. Children from many other countries with poor vaccination rates fly into this country every day. Some of these children who are in the incubation phase of infectious diseases spread them to unimmunized children anywhere they are encountered.

When these diseases were common, every parent knew someone who had an affected child. A polio epidemic occurred in Jacksonville in the 1950s. Every week, another child would be hospitalized with the disease. Some of them were paralyzed and some died. Parents no longer see children with these infections, so it is easy to conclude the risk now is low. …

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