We know that vaccines work to save lives from vaccine-preventable disease.
This is only because most people don’t remember the pre-vaccine era when measles, polio, small pox, and diphtheria, etc., were big killers. So even though vaccine side effects are about the same as they always have been, they can become a much bigger focus for some people because they don’t see any of the mortality or morbidity from the diseases that the vaccines have gotten so good at preventing.
How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Being Vaccinated?
Although vaccines are not perfectly safe, it is extremely rare for a vaccine reaction to be deadly.
“As for vaccines causing death, again so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.”
WHO on Six common misconceptions about immunization
So why do anti-vaccine folks think that they are more common than they really are?
That’s an easy question to answer.
“Differentiation between coincidence and causality is of utmost importance in this respect. This is not always easy, especially when an event is rare and background rates are not available.”
Heininger on A risk-benefit analysis of vaccination
They often believe than anything and everything that happens after someone is vaccinated, even if it is weeks or months later, must have been caused by the vaccine. This discounts that fact that most people have a basic risk, often called the background rate, for developing these conditions that can coincide with getting vaccinated. It also explains why they believe in so many so-called vaccine induced diseases.
Another reason is that they also misuse VAERS reports when talking about vaccine deaths.
“In a review of reports of death following vaccination submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from the early 1990s, the Institute of Medicine concluded that most were coincidental, not causally associated.”
Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013
How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?
Fortunately, most people are vaccinated, and deaths from vaccine preventable diseases are tremendously below what they were in the pre-vaccine era.
Most people will be surprised to know that they aren’t zero though.
People do still get vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.
And tragically, people do still die of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.
For example, in 2015:
- there were at least 37 cases of perinatal hepatitis B infections
- five infants and children less than age 5 years died of rotavirus disease
- a 14-month-old died of Hib meningitis
- an infant died of pneumococcal meningitis
- a 3-year-old with congenital rubella syndrome died
- at least two teens died of meningococcal meningitis
- a woman in Washington died of measles – the immunosuppressed women was exposed to an outbreak in Clallam County that mostly included intentionally unvaccinated kids
- 85 kids died of the flu
Of course, worldwide, especially in developing countries, the number of deaths are much higher, which is a good reminder of what would happen if more of us stopped vaccinating!
And it is an even better reminder that you have to look at the number of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases today in the context that most people are vaccinated and protected.
If you are truly looking at a risk vs benefit analysis of whether or not to get vaccinated, it is still the great benefit of avoiding vaccine preventable diseases vs the very small risks of getting vaccinated that you should think about.
“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”
Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book
It is also the small risks of getting vaccinated vs the much greater risk of going back to the pre-vaccine era if you decided to skip or delay any vaccines.
“Millions of vaccinations are given to children and adults in the United States each year. Serious adverse reactions are rare. However, because of the high volume of use, coincidental adverse events including deaths, that are temporally associated with vaccination, do occur. When death occurs shortly following vaccination, loved ones and others might naturally question whether it was related to vaccination. A large body of evidence supports the safety of vaccines, and multiple studies and scientific reviews have found no association between vaccination and deaths except in rare cases.”
Miller et al on Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?
It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you might be able to get away with hiding in the herd.
It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you are counting on everyone else in the world to get vaccinated and eliminate or eradicate the disease and your risk.
If too many parents who are on the fence start believing that their kids have zero risk of getting polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases and continue to skip or delay vaccines, then boom, we are back to the days when outbreaks would close schools and kids would suffer from the devastating effects of these diseases.
While anti-vaccine folks won’t have such an easy time convincing people that these diseases are mild anymore, none of us want to wait for more outbreaks to occur before folks get the message that vaccines are safe and necessary.
What to Know About Vaccine Deaths
Despite what anti-vaccine folks would have you believe as they try to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids, vaccines are safe and necessary and vaccine deaths are very rare.
More on Vaccine Deaths
- CDC – What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?
- WHO – Six common misconceptions about immunization
- Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS
- Study – Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?
- Study – Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997-2013.
- Study – Neonatal deaths after hepatitis B vaccine: the vaccine adverse event reporting system, 1991-1998.
- WHO – Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide
- Dr. Anthony Fauci: Risks From Vaccines Are “Almost Nonmeasurable”
- CDC – Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999 Impact of Vaccines Universally Recommended for Children — United States, 1990-1998
- CDC – Benefits from Immunization During the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994–2013
- Study – A risk-benefit analysis of vaccination.
- NHS – Benefits and risks of vaccination
- Study – Adverse events following Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccines in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 1990-2013.
- No more cases of meningitis reported following Michigan child’s death
- Clallam Co. woman dies of measles
- 2015 Measles Outbreak In Clallam County
- Study: Vaccine halves risk of death from flu in kids
- AAP – Unvaccinated Children Accounted for Majority of Pediatric Flu Deaths from 2010-2014
- Why Is Meningitis Still Causing Deaths on U.S. College Campuses?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2015 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December, 2016.