|terrymichael.net | thoughts from a libertarian Democrat|
by Terry Michael, November 30, 2013
A late November article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) makes some pretty audacious claims about vaccines and childhood infectious diseases.
I haven't read the whole "study" from Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. (I don't have an expensive NEJM subscription.) I have mixed views on benefits of, and problems with vaccines. But this seems like obvious propaganda masquerading as a "scientific" study. The “calculations” (a better descriptor) estimate that over 100 million cases (what a nice round number?) of serious childhood illnesses have been prevented in the U.S. since 1924 by vaccination programs, according to news reports about the NEJM article. And the dean of the graduate school has even extrapolated the possibility of 3 or 4 million fewer deaths from vaccines among those “cases.”
“Death” would be the obvious end point of a serious infectious disease, and would be a standardized way to determine what “might” be achievable from specific interventions, like vaccines. How the Pittsburgh study defined “serious,” I have no idea.
But look at the Centers for Disease Control’s own numbers on deaths from infectious diseases in the whole U.S. population, not just children, from 1900 to present (and the CDC is one of the biggest boosters of vaccines):
In 1900, there were 800 deaths per hundred thousand from infectious diseases. BEFORE the time penicillin began to be widely used in the general population in the mid-1940's, that had dropped to 200/100,000. By the 1950's, BEFORE the polio vaccines were introduced, that had dropped to 100/100,000, pretty much where it has stayed--including since the time the Vaccination Assistance Act was passed in 1962.
The reasons for the precipitous drop in infectious disease deaths in the first half of the 20th Century are so obvious they apparently escaped the confirmation-biased calculations of the Pittsburgh "researchers" -- better nutrition, clean water, modern sanitation, improved hygiene.
In other words: all those things that give us strong, effective natural and adaptive immunity.