Like with a lot of other controversial topics, the Twitter outrage about the danger of vaccines doesn’t actually reflect a sudden surge in anti-vaccine beliefs amongst the general population. According to a recently published peer-reviewed article, most of increase in these anti-vaccine tweets represent a very specific demographic. Individuals from affluent, populated areas in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – seem to be the backbone of this sudden increase in anti-vaccine tweets.
According to the unsurprising results reported in a new study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, in areas where laws mandate that children receive a seasonal flu vaccination, before entering preschool or day care, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations drops significantly. In this study, after Connecticut enacted a law that mandated the vaccine, the rate of children requiring hospitalization because of the flu declined by 12%.
Connecticut’s regulation for flu vaccination (pdf), which took effect in 2010, increased the uptake of childhood flu vaccinations from 67.8% to 84.1%. According to Dr. James Hadler, the lead researcher for the study, “That difference, we feel, has resulted in children attending daycare being better protected against influenza and its severe complications.”
On January 1, 2011, Connecticut mandated that any child between 6 and 59 months old must be vaccinated for influenza if they are to be enrolled in a licensed Connecticut day care center. So the vaccination rate for kids in that age group went from around 54% in 2009-10 to 85% during the 2010-11 flu season.
Emergency department visits for flu and flu-like illness dropped from 34% in 2008 to 30% in 2011, or around 72,000 visits. There was also a 30% decrease in emergency department visits for children in the 6-59 month age range. Like many of these diseases there’s a myth that they are not that dangerous. Except a significant portion of these kids who contract the disease will have other, more serious, issues like pneumonia or even death.
The vaccination program benefits both children and adults that come in contact with the children (though it would be better if the parents were vaccinated too). And vaccines save lives. Period. End of debate.