Vaccines save lives

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Vaccines save lives. That’s the truth I experience every day leading a health insurance company covering the lives of more than 250,000 children. We pay millions of dollars each year to immunize all of our members. We have “wellness callers” who make calls every day to encourage and make sure all our kids get their immunizations.

Why do we spend millions of dollars to immunize children? We do this because it improves the health of our covered children, it prevents children suffering from mumps, measles and other maladies, and it saves us the cost of treating children suffering from mumps or measles.

Recent news articles in the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Tribune and Washington Post lead me to speak out on this important issue.

If there were anything close to truth about immunizations causing autism or other conditions that insurers would then have to pay for, you know health insurance companies would stop our practices of encouraging, even begging our members to get their shots!

Below, I am sharing comments and links to source data and research provided by a colleague. Please read and share this with others, and learn for yourself the evidence behind immunization safety in the U.S. Vaccines save lives!

From my colleague, in response to my questions:

There is no research that supports a causal link between vaccines and autism.

The rumors all originated from a flawed “study” — and I use the term very loosely — which claimed a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. The data, numbers, and stories were all manipulated and the flawed study was completely retracted and deemed false. It turns out all of the patients were recruited by anti-MMR supporters and the study was financed by a group who were against vaccines. The original author of the research paper was stripped of his medical license.

A partial list of research disproving any link between vaccines and autism:

i. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10376617
ii. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=dales+hammer+smith
iii. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12421889
iv. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12415036
v. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15364187
vi. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22336803

Research shows vaccines work, and I agree with Ken: Vaccines save lives! For example, CDC estimates that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years. There are massive benefits to vaccines particularly when enough people in the population receive them, referred to as “herd immunity.” Polio is a helpful case study for understanding successful herd immunity. Polio is a highly infection disease with consequences ranging from disability to death, but safe and effective vaccines given in childhood have resulted in the United States being practically polio-free. One reason we no longer fear polio in the U.S. that multiple generations of children spanning decades have been vaccinated against polio.

Building on the idea of group immunities, vaccines are what economists call positive externalities. A positive externality is a benefit that is enjoyed by a third party, which in this case is the general public. By not getting our own children vaccinated, we not only increase the chances of our own children contracting a disease, we also increase the chances that others will contract the disease as well. Considering all of this evidence, I believe “personal choice” is a misnomer regarding children’s vaccinations. If I know that a polio vaccine can save my child’s life, I don’t want someone making a personal choice about whether or not to vaccinate my child – I want evidence-based science to inform wise health policy, and for a doctor or nurse to tell me “Yes, we vaccinate all children against polio, to save their lives, and we will vaccinate your child as well.”

i. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/02/19/peds.2015-1968
ii. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/1787785
iii. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/cervical-cancer/index.html
iv. https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/96/8/604/2521208/Projected-Clinical-Benefits-and-Cost-effectiveness
v. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/2/07-040089/en/
vi. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6316a4.htm

Please study and share this Interactive World Map where you can see vaccine-preventable outbreaks. I hope our conversation can continue to a point where the importance of vaccines is universally agreed upon.

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