By David E. Hogan, DO, MPH, FACEP
Vice President of Educational Development TeamHealth
Chair TeamHealth Emerging Infectious Disease Taskforce
Despite all our medical prowess, nothing has improved health and well-being more than public health. And little in public health has impacted this more than vaccines. There are 25 safe and effective vaccines against dangerous pathogens available in the United States. These diseases kill people of all ages but are particularly egregious in killing young children.
Effectiveness of Vaccines
How effective are vaccines? It is calculated vaccines prevent the deaths of four million people globally each year. Smallpox has been mainly eradicated from the globe due to vaccines. Parents no longer fear spring and the return of polio season. Polio sickened 20,000 (mostly children) in the country each year and killed or paralyzed over 3,500. Vaccines eliminated polio from the United States in 1979.
Today, the most dangerous pediatric diseases with effective vaccines include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Rotavirus, Pertussis, Measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b, influenza and SARS-CoV-2. Vaccines used for these diseases are projected to save 53.7 million lives globally over the next 10 years. Vaccines not only save lives but also money. The U.S. spends approximately $27 billion annually due to unvaccinated people contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.
The Impact of Vaccines
The protective impacts of vaccines carry over to adults. Vaccine recommendations can be complex depending on age, activities and medical conditions. In general, adults who are up to date on their pediatric shots should be vaccinated for COVID-19, Influenza, Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis, Varicella, Pneumococcal pneumonia and Hepatitis B. Additional vaccines might also be recommended by their primary care provider.
Unfortunately, vaccine rates in the United States are declining. For example, at 24 months of age, only 69.7% of children are up to date on vaccinations against the most dangerous pathogens. Similar statistics are seen in adults. Some of the reasons for these declines are associated with anti-vaccine rhetoric during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, complacency and lack of vaccine awareness.
Vaccine-preventable diseases go by that name for a reason – they are essentially preventable with vaccination. Vaccines are a critical part of our health and well-being. Given the millions of lives saved and hundreds of millions of disease cases prevented each year by vaccines – each of us is left with a choice. There is a world before vaccines and a world after vaccines. Which world do you want to live in?
Visit CDC.gov for more details on recommended childhood vaccines and those for adults. See our website’s News & Resources section for more from Dr. Hogan on COVID-19 and articles from the Emerging Infectious Disease Taskforce.