Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist throughout the world, even in the U.S. While you might not see some of these diseases every day, they are still common in other countries and could easily be brought into the U.S.
If we stopped vaccinating, the relatively small number of cases we have in the U.S. could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of people infected with diseases. Even if your family does not travel internationally, you and your family could come into contact with travelers anywhere in your community. When people don’t receive all of the recommended vaccinations and are exposed to a disease, they can become seriously sick and spread it through their community.
In the United States, most of the measles cases are now a result of international travel. The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated people who get infected in other countries (many recent cases coming from Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring) and then they further spread measles to U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people. The majority of people who got measles over the last few years in the U.S. have been unvaccinated.
The CDC reports that 1,282 measles cases were reported from 31 states in 2019.
In 2020, there have been 12 confirmed cases of measles in 7 jurisdictions. (*Jurisdictions refer to any of the 50 states, New York City, and DC.)
Make sure your family is vaccinated against measles, especially if you are traveling internationally. The fact that most people in the U.S. are vaccinated against measles is the only thing that prevents these clusters of cases from becoming even more serious epidemics.
The only vaccine-preventable disease that is completely eradicated (gone) from the world is smallpox. Polio is now the next closest to being eliminated around the world, but it still exists in some countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Since we know that diseases can spread from country to country through international travelers and trade, we must all continue to be vaccinated so the disease doesn’t come back in the U.S.
All vaccine-preventable diseases are not the same. Some diseases are more deadly, and some others are more contagious. But whether the chance of getting sick or dying from is a particular disease is 1 in 100 or 1 in 10,000, you must decide if the risk is worth taking with your family’s and neighbors’ health. No one ever thinks that they or their child will be the 1 in 10,000 that will die from a vaccine-preventable disease.
How can I protect my family and my community from vaccine-preventable diseases?
To best protect yourself and every member of your family from vaccine-preventable diseases, follow the CDC’s recommended immunization schedules. Vaccines are not just for protecting ourselves and our families. They also protect the people of all ages in our community who are unable to get certain vaccines; who are too young to get vaccinated against certain diseases; who might have failed to respond to a vaccine; or who might be particularly susceptible to serious diseases and their complications for other reasons like cancer or HIV. This concept is known as “community immunity” or “herd immunity”.
Vaccines also protect our children’s children and their children by keeping diseases that used to be more common in the U.S. from coming back. If we stopped vaccinating in the U.S., we could find ourselves fighting serious and often deadly diseases we thought we had gotten rid of (or were mostly gone) decades ago.