Vaccine Myths Round Four

February 28, 2010 by
Filed under: Parents' Pages, Vaccine Myths, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Vaccines saved us:  just visit an old graveyard and look at all the markers for dead babies and children.

Graph provided by Health Sentinel

Click on the graph to enlarge it. For more graphs go here.

When the vaccine arguments are hot and furious, a frequent insult is: “You don’t understand the science!”  The confusion in this case doesn’t arise from ignorance of science, but from ignorance of history.  The people who think that vaccines saved millions of children from death see the story like this:

Childhood illnesses run uncontrolled through the population leaving dead bodies in every house.  Parents are in despair.  Brave doctor cooks up a vaccine, the disease stops dead, and all children come through to a healthy adulthood.

But the real story is a bit different.  The first widely used measles vaccine began to be distributed in the U.S. in 1967.

No that isn’t a typo.  It was 1967 when the measles vaccine began to be widely used in the U.S.

So what happened to children in the U.S. between, say, 1911 and 1967?

Mortality from measles dropped sharply.

The communicable diseases of childhood measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and diphtheria declined remarkably in 1930.  Not only did the combined mortality from these four diseases drop 26 percent in a single year, but each of the four registered a new low death rate.  Comparison with the year 1911 shows a 79 percent decline in the combined mortality of the group, a decline of 81 percent for measles and for scarlet fever, of 73 percent for whooping cough, and of 79 percent for diphtheria.

The mortality rates decreased so far that one writer said this in 1935:

All of the old menaces like typhoid, smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough, and diphtheria have become minor causes of death.  The chance is very remote indeed that any of them will ever again assume sufficient importance in the mortality tables seriously to affect the general death rate.

To all those people who say:  “Just go visit a graveyard, to see how bad things were before we had vaccines to save children from measles,”  I’d like to know what time period they would like us to review. Are they thinking 1700?  Or perhaps 1800?  Some period between 1900 and 1930?  Or perhaps they had in mind 1966, just before all of the children were finally saved from measles by the belated arrival of the vaccine.

Note: The article quoted above which provides specific drops in mortality for four childhood diseases, credits the diphtheria vaccine for saving lives, but doesn’t comment on the oddity that the three diseases for which no vaccine was available had more or less identical decreases in mortality over the same period of time. Could there be a common factor which was influencing childhood mortality rates for all of these diseases?

In 1951, Geoffrey Edsall wrote:

…generally agreed the relative susceptibility of adults to diphtheria is related to the steady decrease in the incidence of the disease, a decrease which in this country has proceeded almost without interruption for the past eighty years, and which has occurred in states with no extensive immunization programs as well as in those with long established programs. (emphases added)


9 Comments on Vaccine Myths Round Four

  1. Davide Chiavegatti on Sat, 26th Jun 2010 8:42 am
  2. Hello!
    Great job, I must say.
    Please take a look on Wikipedia, where other stats are reported. The pages on Wiki related to vaccines look a bit biased. Some example:
    Maybe you have a say on that.
    My warmest regards.

  3. admin on Sun, 27th Jun 2010 7:09 am
  4. Hi David,
    Sorry, we have our hands full writing our own articles. Taking on Wikipedia is beyond our time and energy range. Feel free to draw on our sources if you want to, however. We do provide citations or links to all of our data.

  5. EliminateVariables on Sat, 17th Jul 2010 10:31 am
  6. I have gone through all the vital stats from CDC and have come to the same conclusion as the revealed graphs above. Notice most stats showing vaccines were responsible start at 1950 to present and fail to show previous drops recorded from as far as 1890.
    Also many of their graphs do not show references or citations and simply want the viewer to trust the statement simply because the author’s name is followed by a Phd or MD.

    Question the science, read boths sides and make your own conclusion. It wins everytime!

    Great job IV…love the site too!!!

  7. maureeen on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 9:06 am
  8. There was a measles vaccine available as early as 1963. I recall many of my class mates lining up for it. Of course, there was a big outbreak in Los Angeles of measles at the same time. The 1967 vaccine was round two, and it was not required for another few years, as I recall.

  9. admin on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 7:50 pm
  10. You are quite correct, there was an earlier vaccine. It turned out that it caused a dangerous form of atypical measles and was quietly removed from the market.

  11. Euph Serpens on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 11:29 am
  12. How does this relate to the incidence of measles, diphtheria, pertussis etc? Obviously we have got better at nursing people with these diseases, hence the lower death rates, but what are the rates of disease per population? Were they affected by vaccination?
    Are all vaccinations suspect? Is vaccination as a medical procedure suspect, or just some vaccinations?
    Where is the line between medical intervention we approve of, and that we disapprove of?

  13. admin on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 7:49 pm
  14. You missed the point that nursing wasn’t the life saver here either. Better living conditions, better nutrition and better sanitation made it possible for many more children to survive childhood illnesses.

    Except for diphtheria, which dropped in incidence over many years before the invention of vaccination, childhood illnesses continued to occur, but they became steadily less dangerous.

    Let us consider chickenpox. There was a period when this illness was considered quite dangerous and when it had a significant death rate. By the time a vaccine was invented, this period was roughly 100 years in the past. Many modern countries with excellent medical systems have not adopted this vaccine: Norway, Iceland, the U.K. and many more. All of these countries allow chickenpox to run rampant through their children…

    Until we have accurate information about the real risks and benefits of vaccines, yes, they are all suspect.

  15. Euph Serpens on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 11:36 am
  16. Thanks for linking to the Geoffrey Edsall paper – very interesting reading.
    I notice he also says “the best controlled studies available indicate that, in outbreaks occurring among intermingled immunized and nonimmunized populations, the diphtheria morbidity and mortality rates among the inoculated have been far lower than among the uninoculated.”
    How do we account for that if vaccines are ineffective?

  17. admin on Sat, 21st Apr 2012 7:40 pm
  18. We don’t actually claim that vaccines are ineffective. We are simply pointing out that the data doesn’t support the claims that millions of lives have been saved by vaccination. Not even hundreds of thousands of lives.

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