Hooray for vaccines

I saw this simple but illuminating infographic on the Forbes website, in an article by Matthew Herper. It was created by graphic designer Leon Farrant and shows the profound impact effective vaccines have had on a nation’s health. As Herper explains:

Below is a look at the past morbidity (how many people became sick) of what were once very common infectious diseases, and the current morbidity in the U.S. There’s no smallpox and no polio, almost no measles, dramatically less chickenpox (also known as varicella) and H. influenza (that’s not flu, but a bacteria that can cause deadly meningitis.


Vaccine Infographic | Leon Farrant

I saw this not long after watching the British charity fundraiser Comic Relief, which supports aid and development projects in many African countries (amongst other things). One of the recurring themes in the telethon was the urgent need for vaccines in certain parts of Africa, and the devastation that preventable diseases are having on children’s lives.

Worthy, heart-wrenching and persuasive stuff.

But I couldn’t help feel even more frustration than I normally do that, despite having immediate access, many parents in developed countries like the UK and US still choose not to vaccinate their kids. As we have seen with a rise in whooping cough cases and measles in recent years, and as the infographic elegantly shows, a failure to properly protect the population can lead to serious health consequences.


[And for a thorough rebuttal of antivaxers’ scaremongering, read David Gorksi at Science-Based Medicine]

*Infographic is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

7 thoughts on “Hooray for vaccines

  1. Hans

    Impressive infographic indeed, I may show it on my own blog to share with my German audience. but just for clarification: What do they mean by “pre-vaccination era”? Are the numbers on the left from one particular year, or does it differ depending on the type of vaccine and when it was introduced?

  2. The Skeptical Dad Post author

    Hi Hans, thanks for reading and commenting.

    Herper put in an update to his article to clarify: “To be clear, these data represent data collected in 2007 on past incidence of these diseases. This was published here [http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=209448], in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The current data are annualized cases for 2010, per the link to the original data that I had included above [http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/G/impact-of-vaccines.pdf].”

    The JAMA paper states: “The prevaccine information was from a wide variety of historical reporting sources. We sought to identify the most comprehensive and credible of these sources. The historical average number of cases and deaths per year were taken from the number reported or estimated for a representative time period before vaccine licensure, or before widespread implementation of the vaccine-specific immunization program.” The dates vary for each diseases, but all the information is in the Methods section (look at Tables 1 and 2): http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=209448#METHODS

    1. Hans

      Great, thanks for pulling this out!
      By the way, if you are worried by antivaxers’ scaremongering in the UK, stay clear of Germany. Actually, moving from UK to Germany was like going 150 years back in time, concerning public opinion on evidence-based medicine, vaccination and alt-med.

  3. Autism Mom Praying In The Storm

    I guess if you question vaccines, then you would be called an “antivaxer”. I never heard that term before but will be sure to share it in my blog. Anyhow, my 20+ year old son has autism, and grand mal seizures. I’m praying that a cure will be found, and regret that I did not space out his vaccines. I think the current schedule is an assault on the immune system of many children (this is my opinion). Evidently the current number is 1 in 50 with autism, and probably worse than that for boys. So, I do question the safety of vaccines and know that there is big $$ involved and no liability for rx companies. So, yes, just call me an “antivaxer”, praying and dealing with autism every day.

    1. The Skeptical Dad Post author

      Hi, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear your son has autism and I too sincerely hope help can be found.

      I would not, however, blame yourself for your son developing autism. There has been no reliable evidence to link vaccines with autism – the research by Andrew Wakefield that has caused a lot of anxiety had been thoroughly discredited as fraudulent and unethical, and he has been struck off as a doctor (see here for comprehensive coverage: http://briandeer.com/mmr-lancet.htm & http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield). In fact, I saw only the other day a piece of research that found no link between the vaccine schedule and autism (http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/mind_brain/child_development/~3/WLfmupyDKeg/130329090310.htm).

      Autism is is a complex disorder that we don’t fully understand – I’d recommend reading Emily Willingham’s writing for a good analysis (also a mum of children with autism: http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/ & http://www.emilywillinghamphd.com/)

      And I don’t think questioning vaccines necessarily makes you an “antivaxer” – I think everyone should question everything, and is part of what a Skeptic does. I think, though, that the term “antivaxers” is used when someone rejects vaccines without reliable evidence, and takes an almost ideological opposition to them without good reason. A lot of claims that antivaxers make are unfounded and scaremongering (http://skeweddistribution.com/category/vaccines/ & http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Vaccine_denialism).

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