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Data Points, February 2008

Ounces of Prevention

Vaccines may not be the moneymakers that drug firms like, but they have transformed U.S. health. A study looking at the prevaccine and postvaccine eras finds that of 13 childhood vaccinations, nine showed at least a 90 percent decline in death and in hospitalization rates. Today's nonimmunized child typically comes from a wellto-do family granted religious or philosophical exemptions, rather than from a poor family lacking insurance, as was the case in the past.

Vaccines approved before 1980 prevent diphtheria, measles, mumps, pertussis, poliomyelitis, rubella, smallpox and tetanus; vaccines approved since then target hepatitis A, acute hepatitis B, Hemophilus influenzae b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae and varicella (chicken pox).

Annual average number of disease cases in prevaccine era for vaccinations recommended before 1980 (covering eight diseases): 1,027,958

Annual average number of cases in postvaccine era: 22,324

Annual average number of cases in prevaccine era for vaccinations first recommended after 1980 (covering five diseases): 4,351,752

Annual average number of cases in postvaccine era: 682,835

Estimated annual deaths from all 13 diseases in: Prevaccine era: 18,412

Postvaccine era: 4,970

Postvaccine era, excluding strep: 120

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, November 14, 2007

This article was originally published with the title "Ounces of Prevention."

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