Vaccines can, do save lives

Jim Surrell, MD

I recently attended a scientific medical program about vaccinations presented by one of the nation’s medical experts on this subject. It was very timely, especially in light of all the totally non-scientific, inaccurate, and negative information being spread around about vaccinations today. In my medical judgment, this totally untrue false information about vaccinations is not only dangerous, but may also result in serious medical issues in some adults and children who do not receive vaccinations.

Perhaps the best example of how vaccinations have truly saved so many lives and eliminated so much medical morbidity is the polio vaccine. The first polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk, first tested in 1952, and announced to the world by Salk on April 12, 1955. The Salk vaccine consists of an injected dose of killed poliovirus. In 1954, the Salk vaccine was tested for its ability to prevent polio and these trials would grow to be the largest medical experiment in history. The Salk vaccine was proved to prevent polio and wide-spread polio vaccinations were done. By 1957, following mass immunizations promoted by the March of Dimes the annual number of polio cases in the United States was dramatically reduced from a peak of nearly 58,000 cases, to just 5,600 cases. Today, because of the polio vaccine, this dreaded disease is now nearly non-existent.

A recent very negative impact on vaccinations resulted from a fraudulent study done in England. This study that tried to link autism to childhood vaccines is now known to be an “elaborate fraud” that has done long-lasting damage to public health. After the investigation, the highly respected British Medical Journal reported that the study’s author altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients reviewed in this study.

Here is the true positive impact of vaccines on USA health today. Our federal government reports that because of USA children receiving the recommended childhood immunizations, around 20 million illnesses and more than 40,000 deaths are prevented, resulting in approximately $70 billion in health care savings. Vaccinations are effective primarily due to two factors. First, once a person is immunized against a specific disease producing organism, the rate of that disease, as well as its associated asymptomatic carrier state, is decreased. Second, when a large population is immunized, unvaccinated individuals may also benefit from a reduced risk of exposure to these disease producing organisms. Because of these vaccines, USA children’s health has improved, and the quality and length of their lives have increased.

As a result of the availability of vaccinations, most vaccine-preventable diseases that had been health threats for centuries have experienced a dramatic decline in mortality and morbidity. Let me close with another example of the effectiveness of vaccines.

Prior to tetanus vaccines, tetanus was a very serious and potentially fatal disease. With the tetanus vaccine, the mortality from tetanus has decreased by 99 percent. Obviously, this dramatic and very positive result is directly attributed to the tetanus vaccine.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. He has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at U.P. Health System-Marquette.