People don’t often die from vaccine-preventable diseases these days.
At least not in industrial countries.
Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Today
Well, they aren’t supposed to.
Tragically, we are seeing more and more deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases every day in countries that once had these diseases under good control:
- over 100 measles deaths across Europe and a measles death in the United States a few years ago
- diphtheria deaths in Australia, Belgium, South Africa, and Venezuela
- life-threatening tetanus cases in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Ukraine
- a rabies deaths in the United States in a child who’s parents skipped the post-exposure rabies vaccine
- pertussis deaths in the United States
- influenza – a record number of deaths in the United States, with most kids unvaccinated
- rotavirus – yes, unvaccinated kids still die of rotavirus in the United States in the 21st Century! In a recent outbreak in California, in which a child died, almost all of the kids were unvaccinated.
And not surprisingly, these deaths are almost always in unvaccinated children.
How Many Kids Die from Vaccine Preventable Diseases These Days?
More specifically though, do you ever wonder how many kids are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases?
It’s not something that anyone seems to talk about, especially folks who downplay the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and overstate the risks of vaccines.
But parents should know, especially if they are thinking of delaying or skipping their child’s vaccines, that deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases still occur.
In fact, between 2015 and 2019, there have been:
- 12 deaths from rotavirus disease
- 6 deaths from pertussis
- 7 deaths from meningococcal meningitis
- 89 deaths from Streptococcus pneumonia septicemia, pneumonia, and meningitis
- 62 deaths from Hib disease, including septicemia, meningitis, and pneumonia
- 1 death from rabies
- 2 deaths from chicken pox
- 1 death from hepatitis A
While tragic, we are still fortunate that these deaths are no where close to the levels we once saw before we had vaccines to protect our kids.
Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Pre-Vaccine Era
In the pre-vaccine era, we used to see:
- up to 15,000 deaths and 200,000 diphtheria cases each year until the 1940s
- an average of 175,000 cases of pertussis each year in the early 1940s, with about 1,118 deaths from pertussis in 1950 and 467 deaths from pertussis in 1955
- up to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio each year until the early 1950s
- an average of about 186,000 cases of mumps each year before 1967, with an average of 40 deaths a year
- up to 500 deaths and 500,000 measles cases each year until the early 1960s
- a rubella epidemic in 1964-65 that caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome”
- up to 20,000 cases of invasive H. influenzae (Hib) disease each year, with more than half of them having meningitis, and about 300 to 600 deaths, mostly children under age 2 years. In 1980, 45 children died with epiglottitis and there were an additional 222 deaths from Hib meningitis.
- up to 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 chicken pox deaths each year until 1995
- up to 17,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in children younger than 5 years each year (before 2000), including 13,000 cases of bacteremia (blood infection) and 700 cases of pneumococcal meningitis, with 200 deaths.
- just over 400,000 visits to the doctor and up to 272,000 visits to the emergency room, 70,000 hospitalizations and 20 to 60 deaths each year in children under age 5 years because of rotavirus infections until 2006
That these deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases quickly rise as rates of vaccinations drop is a tragic reminder that vaccines are necessary.
And what makes it even more tragic is that this was all predicted and could have been prevented if folks didn’t listen to anti-vaccine propaganda that scares them away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
Worldwide Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Of course, talk of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases shouldn’t stop with the developed or industrial world.
Even as a lot of progress is being made, as more and more people get vaccinated, worldwide, there were:
- about 89,780 measles deaths, mostly young children
- about 215,000 deaths from rotavirus infections
- at least 1 million deaths from hepatitis B
- almost 200,000 deaths from Hib
- over 4,200 deaths from chicken pox
- about 50,000 deaths from meningococcal infections
- about 160,000 deaths from pertussis
- about 826,000 deaths from pneumococcal infections
- almost 60,000 deaths from rabies
- just over 70,000 deaths from tetanus
- about 222,000 deaths from typhoid
- between 30,000 to 60,000 deaths from yellow fever
As you can see, most of these diseases are still big killers around the world.
“You hear about people who don’t like to vaccinate their kids in the Western world, which I suppose is a personal choice, but when you’re out there, the result of your children not being vaccinated is that they’ll likely die, or be horribly maimed. So yes, I saw a real desire to have their children protected, and also a real understanding of it – I didn’t seem to come across anybody who went ‘What is it?’ Or ‘What does it do?’ They all seemed to know about it.”
Ewan McGregor on Cold Chain Mission
In most of these countries, the problem is access to vaccines though, not parents refusing to get their kids vaccinated.
What to Know About Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Unvaccinated kids are still dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.
More on Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases
- Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission
- CDC – What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?
- Global Immunization: Worldwide Disease Incidence
- WHO – Six common misconceptions about immunization
- WHO – Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide
- 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
- A Vaccine Eliminated A Deadly Killer Of Infants. So Why Do Some People Fear It?
- The reduction of diseases after the introduction of vaccines
- How Vaccines Have Changed Our World In One Graphic
- One Of My Favorite Charts On The Power Of Vaccines
- Pre-Vaccine Declines in Measles Mortality
- Yes, vaccines did save us from disease: a graphic analysis
- Vaccines work. Period.
- How Vaccines Work
- Vaccines don’t give lifelong immunity, but they are still better than natural immunity
- 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
- WHO – Estimated rotavirus deaths for children under 5 years of age: 2013, 215 000
- MMWR – Three Rotavirus Outbreaks in the Postvaccine Era — California, 2017
- 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.