Yesterday morning there was a public Freudian slip. It was perfect. During an interview on the Today Show about “hot button” health issues the team addressed concerns about myths related to the causes of autism. Autism spectrum disorder, now estimated in 1 of 68 children, is a brain condition causing challenges with how children communicate, behave and relate with others. Autism spectrum disorder is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic risk, potentially starting inutero, and potentially influenced by environmental factors. There is so much more research needed to understand causes (for cures). In the past some have pointed to vaccines as a cause of autism although that theory has been debunked, disproven, and refuted again and again. But here’s what happened on the show. The interviewer addressed the topic and said, “We hear a lot about it in the media, that is, vaccines causing optimism….”

Now it was a misspeak, which of course happens to us all, all the time. But it got me thinking, we need to share this real link  like wildfire — the link between vaccines and optimism. We moms, we dads, we pediatricians, we nurses, we family doctors, we community members, we must speak up. Share this incredible fortune, peer-to-peer, the reality that indeed living now in the 21st century that yes, vaccines are linked to optimism.

Our children are so much more likely to live a long life now. At the turn of the 20th century median age of survival was in the 40’s and now Americans, on average, live into their 70’s and beyond. No one disputes that it is antibiotics and vaccines coupled with sanitation that have made the most impact on our profound increase in survival.

Borders can’t stop measles, but vaccination can.  ~ Dr Tom Frieden at CDC

Auspiciously, yesterday was a big day for celebration/optimism when it comes to the proven benefits of vaccines and human survival. It’s been 20 year since the Vaccine for Children program was established in 1994 to remove barriers for children and improve access to vaccines. The program was launched after a large measles outbreak in 1989-1991.  And the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) numbers published yesterday are staggeringly positive. Vaccines in the United States have been very productive at saving lives and have also proven very cost effective. CDC director Dr Tom Frieden reminded us that vaccine hesitancy threatens our safety. In 2014 alone there have been 129 cases of measles in 13 different outbreaks here in America. These have resulted from 34 travelers acquiring measles abroad and coming home, infecting others. Dr Frieden, “Borders can’t stop measles, but vaccination can.” Remember that MMR vaccines protects over 99.9% of people who are immunized for their entire life from ever getting measles a potentially life-ending infection.

The Link Between Vaccines And Optimism:

  • In the years 1994 to 2013 over 78 million children were born in this country.
  • Over 90% of them are have been fully immunized in part because of full access to vaccines for most children around the country regardless of their parents ability to pay.
  • In the last 20 years vaccines have prevented 322 million infections and illnesses
  • In the last 20 years vaccines have helped avoid 732,000 deaths.
  • In the last 20 years we’ve save $295 BILLION (that’s billion with a “b”) in direct costs for medical care in our communities. When you take into account what infections cost those who care for sick people, researches who track illnesses, parents who miss work, and workers who support patients in the last 20 years the US has saved $1.3 trillion in sociatal costs. This takes into account what we pay for vaccines, what we pay to administer.

CDC VFC Infographic

Consider sharing the CDC infographic. Consider sharing the hashtag #vaccinescauseoptimism. As the report suggests, vaccines improve lives and remain cost effective, “Economic analysis for 2009 alone found that each dollar invested in vaccines and administration, on average, resulted in $3 in direct benefits and $10 in benefits when societal costs are included.” We gotta get our head around the numbers. We live in an incredibly optimistic time. Vaccines really are linked to optimism…