What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?
In the U.S., vaccination programs have eliminated or significantly reduced many vaccine-preventable diseases. However, these diseases still exist and can once again become common—and deadly—if vaccination coverage does not continue at high levels.
On this page (Figures and Statistics Updated 2003):
- Type b (Hib) Meningitis
- Hepatitis B
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw)
In the U.S., vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines. Vaccine-preventable diseases have many social and economic costs: sick children miss school and can cause parents to lose time from work. These diseases also result in doctor's visits, hospitalizations, and even premature deaths.
Stopping vaccination against polio will leave people susceptible to infection with the polio virus. Polio virus causes acute paralysis that can lead to permanent physical disability and even death. Before polio vaccine was available, 13,000 to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported each year in the United States. These annual epidemics of polio often left thousands of victims--mostly children--in braces, crutches, wheelchairs, and iron lungs. The effects were life-long. UPDATED April 2007
In 1988 the World Health Assembly unanimously agreed to eradicate polio worldwide. As a result of global polio eradication efforts, the number of cases reported globally has decreased from more than 350,000 cases in 125 countries in 1988 to 2,000 cases of polio in 17 countries in 2006, and only four countries remain endemic (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Pakistan). To date polio has been eliminated from the Western hemisphere, and the European and Western Pacific regions. Stopping vaccination before eradication is achieved would result in a resurgence of the disease in the United States and worldwide. UPDATED April 2007
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention content is free and public domain.
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