Tag: James Lyons-Weiler

Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Deaths?

Anti-vaccine folks seem to think that they found another big bombshell report!

As you will see, the “meager effect” of the measles vaccine prevented over 500 measles deaths in the United States each year!

They are talking about an article from 2001, The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States, by David Cutler, which found that “clean water was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction.”

The article even included mortality graphs for anti-vaccine folks to misuse!

Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Deaths?

What are they missing?

“In the early 20th Century, mortality in the United States declined dramatically. Mortality rates fell by 40% from 1900 to 1940, an average decline of about 1% per year”

Cutler on The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States

Most of the decline the article talks about came at the beginning of the 20th Century, before these vaccines were developed.

What about the vaccines for whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus, which were developed in the earlier part of the 20th Century? They weren’t routinely used until much later. Remember, the individual diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines didn’t even become combined into a single DTP vaccine until 1948.

Clean water and sanitation only had so much effect on mortality rates and much of it was in the early part of the 20th Century. Vaccines and other medical interventions took us the rest of the way!

But, all of these diseases that are now vaccine preventable were still very deadly in the 1940s and 1950s, even with clean water and sanitation.

Sure, mortality rates had declined already by this time, just like they had for most other things, but the effects of clean water eventually plateaued and a lot of people were still getting measles and a lot of people were still dying.

Why so many deaths in 1950 if they had been eliminated by clean water and sanitation?

At least they were until the measles vaccine was discovered and more and more people started getting vaccinated and protected.

You can even ask the author of the article in question…

“Dear Lord.  The fact that vaccines aren’t the only reason why mortality declines in no way means that vaccines are not an important reason why mortality declines.”

David M Cutler, Harvard College Professor, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics

The idea that the measles vaccine had only a relatively meager effect on deaths due to measles infections is silly. It’s also dangerous if you believe it and leave your kids unvaccinated and at risk to get measles, which is clearly a deadly disease.

More on Anti-Vaccine Mortality Graphs