Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at All-Time Low, Study Finds

The number of deaths or illnesses related to 13 vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. has reached an all-time low, according to a new study.

A group of experts examined the rates of death and illness in the U.S before the use of national vaccine recommendations before 1980 and after through 2005.

Researchers Sandra W. Roush of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues with the Vaccine-Preventable Disease Table Working Group, said that the recommendations for use of vaccines to prevent or eliminate 17 vaccine-preventable diseases has been a major contribution to the elimination of 13 of these diseases and the reduction of incidence of others.

Incidents of the vaccine-preventable diseases were studied by the group, including: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella (including congenital rubella syndrome), invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), acute hepatitis B, hepatitis A, varicella (chickenpox), Streptococcus pneumoniae and smallpox.

Of the diseases that had a preventable vaccine from 1980 through 2005, there was a 99 percent decrease in the number of cases of diphtheria (100 percent), measles (99.9 percent), paralytic poliomyelitis (100 percent), rubella (99.9 percent), congenital rubella syndrome (99.3 percent) and smallpox (100 percent).

Smallpox has been eliminated worldwide, and endemic transmission of poliovirus, measles virus, and rubella virus were eradicated in the United States.

There were no reported deaths due to diphtheria, measles, mumps, paralytic poliomyelitis, or rubella; deaths due to congenital rubella syndrome are not reported. The decline in cases of mumps was 95.9 percent; tetanus had a 92.9 percent decrease in cases; and pertussis cases declined by 92.2 percent. Also, there was a 99.2 percent decline in tetanus deaths and a 99.3 percent decrease in pertussis deaths.

Other diseases like smallpox were cured worldwide as well as the elimination of endemic transmission of poliovirus, measles virus, and rubella virus in the United States. There were also no reported deaths due to diphtheria, measles, mumps, paralytic poliomyelitis or rubella (deaths due to congenital rubella syndrome are not reported).

The research also showed a decline in mumps by 95.9 percent, tetanus, by 92.2 percent and a 99.2 percent decline in tetanus deaths and 99.3 percent decline in pertussis deaths.

For five diseases, which had a vaccines licensed or recommended after 1980 and before 2005, the cases of invasive Hib disease declined by 99.8 percent or greater and deaths declined by 99.5 percent or greater. There was an 87 percent reduction in hepatitis A cases and an 86.9 percent decline in deaths from the disease; a decrease of 80.1 percent in cases and 80.2 percent in deaths for acute hepatitis B; a decline of 34.1 percent in cases and 25.4 percent decline in deaths due to invasive pneumococcal disease; and a reduction of 85.0 percent in cases and 81.9 percent decrease in deaths for varicella.

Overall, hospitalizations declined by 87.0 percent for hepatitis A, 80.1 percent for acute hepatitis B and 88.0 percent for varicella.

The report, published in the Nov. 14 issue of JAMA, also found a significant decrease in doctor visits, missed time from work or school, hospitalizations due to vaccine preventable diseases.

“The number of cases of most vaccine-preventable diseases is at an all-time low; hospitalizations and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have also shown striking decreases. These achievements are largely due to reaching and maintaining high vaccine coverage levels from infancy throughout childhood by successful implementation of the infant and childhood immunization program,” said the authors.

“Vaccines are one of the greatest achievements of biomedical science and public health. Continued efforts to improve the efficacy and safety of vaccines and vaccine coverage among all age groups will provide overall public health benefit. The challenges in vaccine development, vaccine financing, and surveillance, assessment, and vaccine delivery are opportunities for the future.”