York County Medicine Winter 2020 - 25

YO R K C O M E D S O C . O R G

Disease rates are low in the United States today. But if we let
ourselves become vulnerable by not vaccinating, a case that could
touch off an outbreak of some disease that is currently under control
is just a plane ride away.

A final example: what could happen.
We know that a disease that is apparently under control can
suddenly return, because we have seen it happen, in countries like
Japan, Australia, and Sweden. Here is an example from Japan.
In 1974, about 80% of Japanese children were getting pertussis
(whooping cough) vaccine. That year there were only 393 cases of
whooping cough in the entire country, and not a single pertussisrelated death. Then immunization rates began to drop, until only
about 10% of children were being vaccinated. In 1979, more than
13,000 people got whooping cough and 41 died. When routine
vaccination was resumed, the disease numbers dropped again.
The chances of your child getting a case of measles or chickenpox
or whooping cough might be quite low today. But vaccinations are
not just for protecting ourselves, and are not just for today. They

also protect the people around us (some of whom may be unable to
get certain vaccines, or might have failed to respond to a vaccine, or
might be susceptible for other reasons). And they also protect our
children's children and their children by keeping diseases that we
have almost defeated from making a comeback. What would happen
if we stopped vaccinations? We could soon find ourselves battling
epidemics of diseases we thought we had conquered decades ago.
References
* CDC. Measles - United States, January 1-August 24, 2013.
MMWR 2013; 62(36);741-43.
* Updates on CDC's Polio Eradication Efforts
* Reported Cases and Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases, United
States, 1950-2013 pdf icon[6 pages]
* Gangarosa EJ, et al. Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis
control: the untold story

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