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Are Vaccines Effective?

In one of my other posts, I cited an article showing that the incidence of pertussis in California has skyrocketed and at the same time the incidence of vaccine refusals in California has quadrupled over the past four years. Mama on a Budget raised a question as to whether the pertussis vaccine was effective, citing an investigation done by a California radio station which showed that 66% of people who contracted pertussis in California this year were fully immunized.

I wanted to make a separate post so that I could post a graph that I scanned from a 2008 AMA article (click on the graph for a larger version if you can’t read the numbers).

The graph below shows the incidence of disease before and after introduction of vaccines. In every instance, the incidence of disease post-vaccine decreased by between 80% and 99.9%. The incidence of death from several diseases decreased to zero.

I realize that correlation does not equate to causation. I also admit the potential for the factual fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is even the possibility that the data could be a government plot to classify pertussis infections by some other name to falsely increase vaccine effectiveness and to enrich the pharmaceutical companies that produce the vaccines.

When vaccination occurs, incidence of every disease goes down. When larger numbers of citizens in California fail to get immunized (or possibly receive booster shots), incidence of preventable disease goes up. I think that the data make a pretty compelling argument that vaccines work and that vaccines save lives.

I continue to think that those parents whose unvaccinated children die from a preventable disease should suffer some legal consequence.

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  1. Overall the history of the human race is a pretty discouraging one. However, vaccinations are a high spot — one of the greatest achievements of a species that leans heavily in the direction of war, pillage, and superstition.

    Now these anti-vac people want to go back to relying on magic to protect themselves and their defenceless children.

    It’s depressing.

  2. I agree that those parents whose unvaccinated children die from a preventable disease should suffer some legal consequence. I also think that those who are unvacinated who give the disease to others should suffer legal consequences.

    • “I also think that those who are unvacinated who give the disease to others should suffer legal consequences.”

      This is the bigger issue in my opinion. There are various populations who can’t receive vaccines for one reason or another, or who have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to illness. When the majority of the population is vaccinated, there is very little chance that they will be exposed to those diseases. However, when fewer people get vaccinated, there’s an increased risk that someone will be exposed to one of these diseases.

      When parents decide not to vaccinate their kids, they might be right that the risk of infection with whatever virus against which their kid isn’t getting vaccinated isn’t all that great. But when their kid exposes a kid who has a weak immune system, whether due to an underlying genetic abnormality, cancer, corticosteriod use, etc., that kid could get very sick very easily.

      There’s a bigger picture here that many people seem to be missing.

      • Wait just a minute, that kind of justification makes absolutely NO SENSE! If vaccines work so well as you seem to think they do, then those who are vaccinated should have nothing to be concerned about! You are simply regurgitating what I have seen on .gov websites. You are a moron.

        I have NEVER had a vaccine of any kind. My parents would not allow it and I thank them every day for that. I am 69 years old, my dad is 98 and still walks 3 miles a day and NEVER been jabbed and my mom is 94 and also avoided the jab all her life. They don’t get sick…no colds, no flu, no medications of any kind. Now why do you think that is? Comments like yours’ are assinine and simply proves how ignorant you are. If YOU want to expose yourseef to the dangers of vaccines, go right ahead and while you are at it, take all your family with you and have them get jabbed as well. We have too many idiots in the world already and the next time you open your pie hole about vaccines, shove that propaganda where the sun don’t shine.

  3. As for Mama on a Budget’s question… Being vaccinated against pertussis isn’t 100% effective. But the radio station was using statistics to obfuscate (that is, using numbers to lie).

    Assume the vaccine is 99% effective (not a real number), and you have a village of 1000 people, all in regular contact with each other. 10 of them are not vaccinated, 990 are vaccinated. One of the vulnerable ones manages to catch pertussis during a beachside vacation at Mogadishu, and brings the disease back.

    The unvaccinated people will catch the disease, as well as 1% of the vaccinated people – 10 of them! So, of the twenty people who got sick, half were vaccinated and half weren’t. Equal numbers, clearly it makes no difference whether you get vaccinated or not!!!!!!

    That’s known as a flim-flam. It very obvious that is exactly the kind of lying with numbers the radio station pulled.

    • There’s a fantastic book called “How to Lie with Statistics” that goes over situations such as this. There are so many ways to misrepresent the facts, either intentionally or through ignorance.

  4. And who will take legal responsibility for those harmed by a vaccine?

    • Nobody. And the government will hire their own people to prove it didn’t happen and everything will be deemed safe once more and kids will continue to die and doctors will make excuses for big pharma. It’s an INDUSTRY, the point of an INDUSTRY is to sell something to make money and you doctors are doing a brilliant job of helping them out. Too bad nobody seems to know how to log into VAERS for two seconds and see for themselves. The information is right out there. Babies die from “SIDS” every day immediately following vaccines and nobody blinks an eye. Odd.

  5. Marilyn, in the US there is a system called the vaccine court which provides an easy way for patients who are injured by a vaccine to recoup their medical costs at very little cost or effort by themselves. If you get Guillien Barre Syndrome from a vaccine, or any other well recognized adverse vaccine effect the case will be settled on fact without any need for legal proceedings…

  6. Part of the problem with vaccines is there is no way to know if they helped you. Many people did not get sick before vaccines, and many more do not get sick now. If only those who would have gotten sick but didn’t due to the vaccines would wake up one morning with purple hair (or some other obvious sign that they had dodged the bullet) there wouldn’t be the anti-vaccine hysteria.

    • Sure there is: antibody titers. We routinely test people for adequate vaccine response to rubella, Hep B, and varicella.

      • No, what I meant is for the people on the street to suddenly have the realization that they dodged a bullet with a virus that tried to attack them. Then they would realize the value. Having been born before the polio vaccine, I have no way to know if I would ever have gotten polio (thank heavens!) but if people who would have gotten it could know, there would be no anti-vaccination movement.

      • Ahh, I see. My mistake. I wonder what Jenny McCarthy would look like with purple hair.

    • Bill-
      I have a cousin who contracted Polio as a child, although none of her other family members did. There was no vaccine then and luckily, she only wears a single leg brace.

      I don’t like the anti-vaccine mode myself. It pains me to see the moms that breastfeed kids til they are five avoid things that could save lives. It is just ridiculous to me. The benefits far outweigh the risks, IMO.

  7. medical professional & parent

    I’m not anti-vaccine. You won’t find me marching in DC.

    But after watching multiple 13-16 yo females be admitted to our hospital with devastating neurological issues with no medical hx other than the HPV vaccine in the previous month, I’m not anxious to sign either of my daughters up for that one.

    It seems like there’s only to options: anti or pro, and all vaccine research is put out and heralded by 1 camp or the other.

    My own daughter has an autoimmune condition that was only discovered and treated when we left mainstream medical practice (celiac). Multiple medical professionals treated her for autism, anxiety, seizures, etc. She missed out on 8 years of important developmental stages. So as much as I want to be a good parent and citizen, I no longer have the luxury of blindly following what AAP tells me. It’s no longer that simple.

    • “I’m not anti-vaccine.”

      “So as much as I want to be a good parent and citizen, I no longer have the luxury of blindly following what AAP tells me.”

      Sorry, but you ARE ant-vaccine. You are not being a good parent if you are willing to ignore the research that says vaccines save lives. As a medical professional you are part of the problem when you rely on anecdotes rather than science based medicine. Vaccines are probably the single greatest medical advancement in history.

      • medical professional & parent

        My kids are all up to date with their vaccinations. I’m not anti-vaccine.

      • medical professional & parent

        I just hate that there appears to be only 2 choices:
        1. The medical establishment is evil & only in it for the $ or 2. Every vaccine is good and you must want to kill babies if you don’t get each & every shot.

        It’s just such a hot topic (witness the comments on any article or blog dealing with it). It’s almost as bad as religion.

        I’ll use my education from statistics, medical school, etc. to make decisions for myself & my family. I won’t *blindly* follow anyone. I read the research (and boy, there is a lot of poorly written research published) before we vaccinate, but this does not mean that I don’t end up agreeing with our pediatrician.

      • Actually there are ZERO studies that show vaccines are effective at preventing disease. Also if you look back at the data you will see that ALL of the diseases were going away by themselves before vaccine intervention. The reasons why the diseases were eradicated were due to dramatic improvements in sanitation, hygiene, and diet.

    • According to the VAERS website there have 17160 adverse events reported possibly related to Gardisil from 2006-Sept 30,2010. This is out of 32million doses for an event rate of less than 1/1900.
      Of these 92% were minor(pain, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and fainting{something teenage girls are prone to anyway}).
      Of the remaining 8%(roughly 1370 cases) that are considered serious(needing hospitalization or resulting in life/limb-threatening problems or death)some were Guillen-barre. Guillen-barre occurs in the unvaccinated population at a rate of about 1-2/100,000. If every single one of those 8% were Guillen-barre it would be about 4/100,000. Of course not all of those 8% are Guillen-barre as there has to be some percentage left for the other issues. Blood clots were also noted. These generally occurred in those otherwise at risk as well(on birth control or overweight, etc). Death was reported in 56 cases. Only 30 could be confirmed. All 30 were reviewed and there was no particular commonality as far as the cause of death to suggest that Gardisil was related.

      Of course all this makes me tempted to call bullsh** on your seeing multiple 13-16 year olds admitted with Gardisil related neurologic adverse effects as there have only been a few hundred in the entire US in 5 years time. You either work in a pediatric tertiary care center with a pediatric neurology service or live in a statistical anomoly.

      • medical professional & parent

        No bull. It’s the 1st scenario you outlined.

        I know that skews my perspective, which is why I have to look at the big picture as I’m making decisions. When my children are within the recommended age range, my preference would be for them to skip the vaccine, avoid sexually risky behavior, and have regular exams. But, we still have a few years until we have to cross that bridge. I’ll keep an open mind as I read the research.

    • Medcial professional and parent was only referencing the HPV not other vaccines with proven track records.
      On Wednesday morning, ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson said that he, too, would encourage parents to learn more about the shot before getting their daughters vaccinated.

      “I am very much in favor of childhood vaccines,” Johnson told Chris Cuomo on Wednesday’s “Good Morning America,” adding that there is little doubt that the vaccine does have its benefits.

      “We know it does what it says – it prevents HPV infections,” he said.

      But he added that when it comes to comparing the benefits of the HPV vaccine against its potential risks, he believes there simply is not enough evidence to recommend to all parents that they have their daughters vaccinated.

      “I don’t think we yet know the long term benefits or risks,” Johnson said. “I’m taking a pass on this one and saying to parents, ‘Study the issue, read the editorial… talk to your doctor.'”

      It’s reasonable to study and review new things and not accept with blind faith

  8. wish there was a vaccine with only pertussis. I had a significant local reaction to my last tetanus vaccine and not willing to risk getting another one in order to update my pertussis status.

  9. My parents told me that my brother’s personality instantly changed after getting one particular vaccine while he was a baby (late 80s) from normal and animated to something akin to autism that took years of speech therapy and the like to overcome.

    So that is why I never got that vaccine as a baby(I believe it was pertussis), and why many other parents choose not to give their kids vaccines. I’m aware of all the studies proving vaccines are safe, but there’s too many similar accounts to my parents’ to ignore.

    • The pertussis part has changed since the 80s. We now use an acellular mix of proteins whereas previously they used an intact cell wall. Much less adverse reactions with the new formulation.

    • Vaccines are normally given at a time when these symptoms start to show. People saying that vaccines are linked to autism have an awful lot to answer for.

      WC, only a few weeks ago my microbiology professor said that the pertussis outbreak was related to the older population losing immunity from the vaccine they received earlier in their life and giving them to kids whose parents refuse to vaccinate them…sounds like the older generation need boosters and the younger generation need education.

  10. pertussis=whooping cough, translation for those people in countries where that term isn’t generally used.

  11. Cynthia Warrington

    Okay so a radio station does research and all of a sudden they are “experts” in whether vaccines work or not? So all the statistics from world government agencies lie? http://genesgreenbook.com/content/proof-vaccines-didnt-save-us

    If symptoms of autism show up at that age, then why do they not show up in unvaccinated children?

    Why is it unvaccinated children have drastically LESS visits to the doctor, fewer illnesses, almost no ear infection incidences, and overall better health then their vaccinated peers?

    The vaccine injury court is a joke.

    Follow the money trail. Search the headlines for drug companies and see just how corrupt they are. From bribing officials to weaseling their way out of fines. Look at the influence they have on media. If you report the truth, we will pull our advertising. Look at who is getting top jobs in Pharmaceutical companies after leaving government service. Kind of like the mob, if you look closely at it.

    Then start looking for the CDC’s transcripts on the meeting in Simpsonwood Georgia and find the actual study where the results are startlingly just as all these “quacks” have been saying about the dangerous effects of vaccines on children.

    The crime is not unvaxed children dying from these diseases, the crime is these drug companies paying off our government, politicians and the media to do its dirty work and allowing these diseases to not die out like they were supposed to. The crime is drug companies not doing double blind tests on vaccinations. The crime is doctors being afraid of losing their licenses so they won’t report the truth of the actual vaccination damage. The crime is children screaming in utter fear and pain while getting shots and then suffering for months/years after.

    The crime is the unethical behavior of these behemoth pharmaceuticals telling huge lies that have most of the population blindly believing these companies have their best interests at heart when its profits from the chronic illness they are successfully generating by vaccinations and drugs they legally push upon the people.

    Follow the Money Trail. It’s a bloody and sadly unhealthy road for most of the population to follow while the profits get raked in with glee.

    • The money trial would demonstrate that vaccines are not a significant money maker for anyone. Neither drug companies nor insurance companies nor doctors office nor health departments make much off of vaccination. For many vaccines doctors offices actually lose money. They take a large amount of time and reimburse poorly and are often denied.

    • yeah! and while we’re at it, it’s time to stop eating tomatoes! did you know that everyone who ate a tomato in the 1800’s is now dead? correlation equals causation dammit!!!

    • Somebody needs to learn to think for themselves.

    • “If symptoms of autism show up at that age, then why do they not show up in unvaccinated children?”

      And how is it that you know this? Back in 2002, we had: “The latest study exonerating the MMR vaccine comes from Denmark, where investigators looked at the health records of every child born from 1991 through ’98, more than 537,000 children. No matter how researchers analyzed the data, there was no difference in the autism rates of children who received the MMR vaccine and those who did not.”


  12. Our son has Asperger’s Syndrome and we don’t blame it on the vaccinations. Sure, it would be great to have something to “blame” it one, but what good would that do anyway? Would it change anything?

    As it is, we have a great 19 year old who is very smart and has a great sense of humor who will begin college classes this winter.

    What good does blame do? Jenny…LOL!

  13. “Statistics never lie…and all Statiticians are liars.”

    i know, it’s an old one…learned it from my statistic’s professor in college. i was never so happy to get….a “C”….!

  14. Duh, of course it’s effective. Effective doesn’t mean perfect though.

  15. Oooooh boy. WhiteCoat has attracted the antivaxers. I look forward to a flamewar reminiscent of the time he bitched about drug-seekers and all the painers turned out.

  16. “The crime is children screaming in utter fear and pain while getting shots and then suffering for months/years after.”

    So, Cynthia, I should never give a child an antibiotic injection, never draw blood for tests, or cath a kid for diagnosis and treatment, since they may suffer long lasting effects from the pain or “trauma”. Certainly a supportive and loving parent and caring, compassionate caregiver (ME!) can mitigate some of the “trauma”…..

  17. The risk of harm from a vaccination is so much less than the risk of harm from contracting the disease. And for anti-vaxers: anecdotes do not equal data, nor does causation equal correlation.

    As far as the so-called money trail goes, the legislation that created the Vaccine Court was writhe. at a time when the last 2 American vaccinemakers were going to stop making vaccines due to inability to make enough money to break even. Vaccines are not a profitable business, except maybe for pharmacies that sell flu shots. Those who profit from vaccines are those who get vaccinated.

  18. The diptheria statistic on the chart confuses me. Certainly the incidence of Diptheria was higher? As a local history buff, I was touring a local cemetery and came upon a family site where three children has died within 2 days of each other (Halloween, over 100 years ago). I looked it up- diptheria. The mother then deveoloped “liver issues” i.e. took to drinking and died a few years later, leaving her 2 remaining children motherless. I’m pretty sure that mom would not have fussed about giving her children a vaccine had one been available to them.

  19. Yay, NurseBeth! :)

  20. One of the problems with pertusis is that it is hard to diagnose. It is suspected that there are far more cases than are actually reported simply because the tests are not acurate when the patient is in the severe coughing stage. This is the stage that is deadly for the asthmatics and copd patients. In our area, we have patients couch so hard they break ribs and get MIs. In this later stage, the diagnosis is made on broncoscopy with a grey to red subglottis although this often may not be positive.

    For those that do not believe in vacinations, what would they think if they gave someone the bacteria and it caused their death?

  21. My daughter and son-in-law are teachers in California and they are not required to get the new pertusis vaccine. Wouldn’t you think that health care workers and teachers should be encouraged to get Tdap

  22. I’d have no problem with criminal penalties for parents who’s un-vaccinated children die of a preventable disease…

    …If vaccines were free.

    • Many(most, all?) states have a program where they are. If a child does not have insurance or the insurance they have does not pay gor vaccines, the state will.

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