Outbreaks Remind Us of Dangers of Disease and Benefits of Vaccines
Jan 30, 2015

Rafiki, the wise old mandrill in Disney’s Lion King movie, made a profound statement that is extremely relevant to the current U.S. measles outbreak that began in Disneyland in December, 2014:


Yes, the past can hurt.  Infectious diseases have a history of being dangerous and deadly.

All you have to do is look at history to see how many millions of lives have been lost, or how many people have been permanently disabled, by infectious diseases. It’s no small number.  And, there’s a long list of diseases that we can now prevent that have been leading killers in the past.  Today, vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide.  Vaccines given to infants and young children in the U.S. over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.  While it’s hard to see what doesn’t occur, the fact remains that vaccines save lives and prevent suffering.

Some people will choose to run from the past.  They’re called vaccine refusers.

No matter how much scientific evidence there is to prove vaccines are responsible for the incredible reduction of disease worldwide, there will always be some people who will run from the truth.  They either debate it, or simply ignore it.  These are the people who purposely refuse vaccines.  Sometimes they focus their efforts on trying to pin every possible ailment known to man (from SIDS, asthma, allergies, autism, etc.) on vaccines.  Other times they focus on the risk associated with vaccines.  In the case of the MMR vaccine, they prefer to focus on the less than a one in one million chance of a serious adverse reaction rather than the fact that one or two of every 1,000 children who have measles will likely die.  What is particularly frustrating is their tendency to ignore the present reality as well as the past.   In cases when the scientific community has investigated their concerns, they ignore the findings because they fail to support their previously held beliefs.

Most people have learned from the past, but remain at risk from those who haven’t.  

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people vaccinate.  These are the people who actively try to protect themselves, their families, and others in their community, by contributing to the benefits of herd immunity and trying to reduce the transmission of vaccine preventable diseases.  Unfortunately, the minority can sometimes jeopardize the herd.

Take the Van Tornhout family for instance.  Today mark’s the fifth anniversary of their daughter Callie’s death.  Callie was exposed to pertussis before she was old enough to begin her DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccination series.  Her story was featured on CNN last week, as an example of how concerning the current measles outbreak is.  Unfortunately, there are many children under the age of one who are too young to receive the regularly scheduled MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine who are at increased risk of complications of measles as a direct result of this outbreak.

Katie and Craig Van Tornhout with their newborn daughter Callie

Katie and Craig Van Tornhout lost their newborn daughter Callie to pertussis.  She was only 38 days old and too young to be vaccinated.

Sadly, the Van Tornhout’s can’t run from the past.  Every day without their daughter Callie is a reminder of why they must continue to educate people on the importance of vaccines.

Stories like Callie’s are shared repeatedly.  On the national news.  On various social media sites.  On websites and blogs.  And even around the family dinner table.  We share these stories so people will realize that these diseases still pose a threat to our children, especially those too young to be fully vaccinated.  Unfortunately, some people remain conflicted about the lessons of the past.  On the one hand, they consider vaccinating to protect themselves and their children from these preventable diseases because they hear stories about children like Callie.  But on the other hand, they’re frightened by prolific misinformation that reinforces their suspicions that vaccines may be harmful.  For fear of making the wrong decision, they fail to make the responsible decision to vaccinate, which then results in a decision which jeopardizes the health of everyone else in their communities.

Today, in honor of Callie’s fifth angel-versary, I urge everyone to do what you can to help ensure no other child dies as a result of a vaccine preventable disease.  Don’t be reluctant to engage in a conversation about vaccines with friends or family.  Don’t refrain from sharing scientifically accurate vaccine information on social media.  Don’t be afraid to ask a non-vaccinator what their objections are.  And please don’t let the past repeat itself.  Sign up to receive notifications from Every Child By Two so you can stay informed of relevant immunization news, now and into the future.  

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16 responses to “Outbreaks Remind Us of Dangers of Disease and Benefits of Vaccines”

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  6. Mad Chad says:

    Wrong wrong wrong. I don’t “run” from vaccines for any of the reasons you stated above. Those are called “straw-man” reasons. What a crock. I have found that those who choose not to vaccinate have educated themselves. Plain and simple. There is science on both sides, so you have to decide for yourself what you want to do. But please stop making people who don’t vaccinate out as stupid uneducated freaks. It is you who have ignored all of the science and only choose those that fit your view. If you look at all of the science, you will see that there is a story to be had for both views.

  7. Chris says:

    “There is science on both sides, so you have to decide for yourself what you want to do.”

    Then you should have no problem providing the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers showing any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is more dangerous than the disease.

  8. Lawrence says:

    There is “educated” – which doesn’t mean what the anti-vax crowd thinks it means (reading anti-vax websites and relying on debunked science and fear-mongering isn’t education)…

    And there is “expertise” – which means actually evaluating the entire body of evidence, reputable science and studies from across the globe, from a multitude of research institutions, regulatory bodies (both here and abroad), and of course, the historical record of disease vs. vaccination that exists & is easily accessible.

    Because the anti-vax brigade throws out all of the actual, real science, because it doesn’t support their contentions that vaccines are ineffective and dangerous, of course they are only left with the materials that support their position.

    This is opposed to the actual mainstream, which looks at all of the available evidence, both pro and con, carefully evaluates the results and how it stacks up against what has come before, and recognizes that it’s okay to modify one’s position as new information is made available.

  9. Mad Chad says:

    You are flat out wrong Lawrence and you are also making many generalizations. Is that what your side does? Make blanket generalizations? Doesn’t seem very scientific does it?
    Get off of your high horse and quit denying there is legitimate science on both sides and then there is also a thing called experience. Honestly, you and your kind make me sick.

  10. Gray Falcon says:

    Mad Chad: If you’re right, why didn’t you present any evidence?

  11. novalox says:


    [citation needed] for your assertions, since they fly in the face of actual science and common sense. Failure to do so means we can assume that you are lying to us, like all of the other anti-vax trolls.

  12. Lawrence says:

    @MadChad – yes please, present your “evidence.” If the anti-vax side had a leg to stand on, why don’t they present it, instead of relying on fear-mongering and emotional appeals?

  13. Mad Chad says:

    You want me to present evidence that there is evidence? You know there is evidence on both sides, quit playing stupid.

    “fly in the face of actual science and common sense”? You have NO common sense, so what are you talking about?

    I could make a generalization that you 3 and your attitudes represent all of the pro-vac side, but fortunately, that is not the case, there are many pro-vac friends of mine that can actually have civilized conversations and they do use logic, common sense and their brains. How refreshing it is.

  14. Lawrence says:

    @Mad – I’ve seen what has been presented on the other side….and it doesn’t even pass the sniff test.

    If you have anything else, please present it.

  15. Chris says:

    Mad Chad: “You know there is evidence on both sides, quit playing stupid.”

    No, I don’t because you have not posted it, therefore I have not seen it. Just post the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers showing any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is more dangerous than the disease.

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