Get the facts on vaccines. Should we vaccinate our children, should I get the flu shot, what are the risks, pros, cons, and myths? We uncover the truth.

flu-facts-and-myths-gsk

Everything You Need to Know About Vaccinations

For everyone who doesn’t want to read a long list of vaccination facts, here is everything you need to know in a few bullet points.

  • Since 1988 there have been 1,132 confirmed deaths from all vaccines. That is a very small percentage everyone who got vaccinated.
  • Polio cases have decreased 99% since 1988, due to vaccines.
  • In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.
  • During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths.
  • Vaccines, like almost every other substance, cause side effects in a small amount of the population. In rare cases these side effects require medical attention.
  • In 2013 the vaccine market was about $25 billion, about $3 billion from the flu vaccine alone. To put this in perspective, healthcare spending was $2.8 trillion in 2013.
  • Vaccine sales are small portion of worldwide pharmaceutical company revenues, an average of less than 2.5% (.3% from flu shots)
  • Even “the Big Three” flu vaccine manufacturers make less than 4.5% of their total corporate revenues from the vaccine.
  • Other pharmaceutical products have up to 10% greater gross profits than vaccines (average of 3%).
  • Big Phrama would make more money not having to create vaccines (mostly due to shipping and spoil loss associated with vaccines).
  • Literally hundreds of thousands of people die every year due to diseases preventable by vaccination, comparatively in 1918 as many as 50 million died from the Spanish flu.
  • Today the flu vaccination and other vaccinations are covered at no out-of-pocket cost under ObamaCare.

Watch doctors discuss the measles outbreak and dispute the anti-vaxxer side of the debate. Or watch the much more fun Penn and Teller NSFW video here.

Will Vaccines, Like the Measles Vaccine, Give My Child Autism?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical experts have said there is no scientific evidence linking the measles vaccine with autism. The vaccine is however linked with preventing tens of millions of deaths and people rejecting the vaccine due to fear has actually led to a measles outbreak.

Where Do these Vaccination Facts Come From? To get the facts and myths on vaccinations we have researched a number of official and unofficial sources on vaccines. Just click a link if you are looking for the source.

The Truth on Vaccination

Like with most subjects, the truth about vaccines is a grey area (true for ObamaCare, true for healthcare spending, true for vaccines). So let’s fill our minds with some key facts to understanding the vaccination debate.

Let’s take a look at the vaccination facts:

  • Institutions like the WHO (world health organization) and CDC (center of disease control in the US) strongly feel vaccinations are important.
  • Vaccinations have very small profits. The CDC, WHO, Pfizer, and whoever else you can think of do get money for their efforts to spread vaccination and awareness. However, profit is necessary for funding, research, and development, and it doesn’t discount validity alone.
  • Worldwide sales of flu vaccines in 2013 was around $3.1 billion, or about .3% of all drug profits. In other words, on average, less than 2.5% of all drug profits are related to vaccines.
  • In the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year.
  • A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.
  • We have a flu vaccine in America, if you get it you are 60% less likely to need treatment for the flu.
  • Like the ultra popular but often contested flu shot, we also have a number of other vaccines to prevent deadly yet common diseases.
  • All CDC recommended vaccinations are free on most health plans starting after 2014.
  • Before vaccination many diseases that have all but “disappeared” from America were common and caused many deaths.
  • In 1918 the “Spanish flu” influenza pandemic was responsible for 25-50 million deaths worldwide and more than one-half million in the U.S.
  • Diseases like whooping cough, polio, measles, Haemophilus influenzae, and rubella struck hundreds of thousands of infants, children and adults in the U.S.
  • The worst recorded polio epidemic in U.S. history occurred with 57,628 reported cases.
  • Before vaccines thousands died every year, take into account that since we created modern vaccines in the late 1700’s the population has grown substantially.
  • For profit companies sell vaccines. Thus they have a financial stake in your vaccinating not just America, but the world (insert maniacal laughter).
  • Not all vaccines are equally safe, and certainly those early 1800’s vaccines were less attractive then the new 2015 brand.
  • Generally all CDC recommended vaccines are safe (the ones you should get your kid for instance). The ones you need to get to go into battle in Afghanistan or to do humanitarian work in Africa, less so. There is risk / reward involved.
  • As technology progresses, we have the ability to make safer vaccines. We also have the ability to make them cheaper.
  • Still, no matter how safe vaccines get 1 in X people will have an adverse side effect. Risks and side-effects are different for every vaccine.
  • Globally, the savings from vaccines were estimated by Ehreth in 2003 to be of the order of tens of billions of US dollars of direct savings. Malaria (for which there are currently several promising vaccines in development) costs sub-Saharan Africa US$ 100 billion worth of lost annual gross domestic product (GDP).
  • It is in our economic interest to ensure vaccination levels stay upwards of 95%. Debt to GDP ratio related to healthcare spending is already one of America’s biggest issue. We certainly don’t need to add deadly pandemic of measles to the list of our problems.

Vaccination Risks

Creating vaccinations isn’t all fun in games. Sometimes even a well meaning vaccination can have it’s drawbacks.

  • Only a percentage of people who are vaccinated are actually protected from any given disease. No medicine is perfect, but most childhood vaccines produce immunity about 90 – 100% of the time.
  • Depending upon the vaccine serious problems can arise in 1 in X people who receive the vaccination. For vaccines we have down it’s about 1 in a million, for vaccines we don’t have down as well the rates can be much higher. Se giant list of rates from CDC here.

Think about it. Have you ever seen a commercial for a medication that didn’t list side effects? Do you think this is a conspiracy, or do you think this is drug companies are working hard to beat their competitors to market with safer and more effective drugs? While your opinion on this may shade your view of vaccination, we urge you to err on the side of the facts. Nothing is going to make you feel like worse parent then explaining to your friends that joe-the-baby can’t come over and play because they have Measles.

Vaccination Myths

Aside from the grey areas of risk and reward, there are some flat out vaccine myths.

Vaccines can overwhelm a child’s immune system. Healthy infants are actually fighting off crazy amounts of “immunologic challenges” constantly. An infant could safely get up to 100,000 vaccines at once. (Theoretical not tested experiment.)

I don’t need to vaccinate my child because other people vaccinate their children. This is a myth, “herd immunity” kicks in when about 95% of a population is vaccinated. Any less and the unvaccinated kid is about 20 times more likely to come down with the disease.

Measles is ancient history, I don’t need to vaccinate against it. Also a myth, the only reason we don’t have measles is because of vaccinations. It’s out there, we just don’t get it.

Vaccines cause autism. Actually the idea that vaccines cause autism and other problems is essentially a myth. The fact is, there have been 14 studies that show your risk of getting autism isn’t any different if you got the MMR vaccine or if you didn’t. Logic will tell you, if you like at the rates from the CDC list, that if a vaccine did cause autism, then the probability of it happening would be upwards of 1 in a million.

The flu shot is a giant conspiracy. Just like GMO’s or whatever the latest piece of science up for attack is, the truth is a grey area. It’s not all good, but in general the flu shot is an effort on behalf of health experts and the Government to prevent the bulk of the potential hundreds of thousands of deaths. Dying of the flu is expensive and bad for the economy. Plus it’s just bad karma to hold back on the flu shot, better to offer it and leave the choice up to individuals and families.

I’ll just wait to vaccinate my child. It’s a myth that you can wait to vaccinate your kid. Last year in Wisconsin 300 children under age 1 came down with whooping cough, 177 of them less than 6 months old. Of these, half were hospitalized and three died.

Check out parenting.com for more vaccination myth busting.

The History of Vaccines

Variolation was introduced to Great Britain in 1721. Toward the end of the 1700’s the first modern vaccination was discovered by British physician, Dr Edward Jenner. In the early 1800 Jenner got government funding for vaccines and from there vaccination grew.

Fast forward to the 1870’s and a strong opposition to vaccines caused a lot of anger, people thought that mandatory vaccination took away their civil liberties.

Between the end of the 1800’s and the 1920’s our understanding of disease and vaccine grew until by the end of the 1920s, vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and tuberculosis (TB) were all available.

Penicillin first became mass-produced. This medical miracle, rediscovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, was capable of attacking many types of disease-causing bacteria. It played a vital role in treating infected wounds during World War II.

In the 1950’s we made another leap and found a vaccines for polio, then smallpox.

As vaccination science grew, doctors, scientists, and governments set out to “vaccinate the world” but specifically the western world. This meant funding, research, and even mandates. Sure the first vaccines were a little wonky, and certainly weren’t as safe, but as technology grows, so does our ability to administer safe vaccines. Still even today, some percentage of those vaccinated experience problems. Not Polio level problems, but in some cases problems non-the-less.

Learn more about the History of Vaccination or see a Vaccine Timeline.

The Anti-Vaxxer Facts

If you want to hear the anti-vaxxer (anti-vaccination) side of the argument?  It’s summed up fairly well in the documentary below.

Our takeaway: We can assume at some points, some vaccines, may have been sent to market without proper testing. Certainly we know that vaccines can have side effects and some have more side effects than others. We can even look at vaccine injury claims filed to see what years vaccines with more potentially side effects were sent to market.

Did these vaccines have severe side effects? Were the severity of those side-effects reported accurately? Was enough research done for a specific vaccine? Those points are up for debate.

One thing is clear from looking at vaccine statistics, vaccines are arguably one of the biggest achievements of modern science.

Dismissing the positive aspects of vaccination isn’t something widely supported, but more regulation and transparency in the vaccine industry is. Those looking to fight against vaccines should focus on what standards vaccines are held to in regards to testing, rather then fighting against vaccination as a whole.

Conspiracy theories are interesting, and often contain elements of truth, but often the actual truth of a subject is often much more mundane. Take the RFID chip myth for instance.

FACTS150 to 200 people die in the U.S. each year due to food allergies. Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day. Since 1988 1,132 deaths have been attributed to vaccines.

Remember Vaccines are Free!

Vaccines are covered under all health plans. Like any other healthcare service or treatment, the cure always has an element of risk. However, when we balance risk vs. reward, we see that the reward almost always outweighs the risk in the world of vaccination. Remember this isn’t just about your children, or you getting the flu, it’s about your individual responsibility to humanity. Be smart, get covered, and do the right thing when it comes to your families vaccination choices.