Fact Or Fiction

Why do we keep vaccinating?

FACT: If we stop vaccinating these diseases will come back”

In the U.S. we are very fortunate to be able to forget how many infants, children, and adults were once sick with diseases that we now prevent with just a few shots. We’re fortunate that the effectiveness of immunizations has allowed us to question if vaccinating is even necessary.

Many other countries are not nearly as fortunate. Polio, measles, hepatitis B, and other diseases still devastate many populations around the world.

Although the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. is very low, this is because most children here are fully vaccinated. In fact, in one year vaccines prevent prevent more than 8,500 child hospitalizations in Colorado, 33,000 deaths in the U.S., and between 2 and 3 million deaths worldwide. If we stop vaccinating, we will see a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

We have already seen the effects of decreased community immunity. Research shows that clustering of unvaccinated children in certain communities diminishes the protection for everyone living in that area. These “hot spots” are at-risk for infectious disease outbreaks.

For example, in 2008, a child who was intentionally unvaccinated became sick with the measles while on a family vacation to Europe. When he came home to San Diego, CA, he returned to school, and with the onset of symptoms visited several doctors’ offices and one hospital. These brief encounters led to 11 other cases of measles, including one hospitalization of an infant. Similarly, the 2014-15 multi-state measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California and infected more than 100 people was largely fueled by parents who refused to vaccinate their children. Choosing not to immunize is essentially choosing to allow infectious disease spread.

It is also important to keep vaccinating because we never know where and when we’ll be exposed. These diseases are real, and international travel and commerce makes spreading them from country to country as easy as boarding a plane. To see real-life disease activity around the world, check out a weekly bulletin published by The World Health Organization.

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