Is Vaccination Approaching a Dangerous Tipping Point?

JAMA NETWORK – Population immunity against some vaccine-preventable infectious diseases is at risk, and thousands of excess deaths are likely to occur this season due to illnesses amenable to prevention or reduction in severity of illness with vaccines.

To counter the current trend, we urge the clinical and biomedical community to redouble its efforts to provide accurate plain-language information regarding the individual and collective benefits and risks of vaccination.

Such information is now needed because vaccines have been so successful in achieving their intended effects that many people no longer see the disturbing morbidity and mortality from infections amenable to vaccines.

For example, smallpox has been eradicated, and polio has been eliminated from the US, through effective vaccination campaigns.

Measles was similarly eliminated, but imported cases remain a threat to those who are unvaccinated as well as to those who are immunocompromised.

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“It is sobering to note that vaccine hesitancy to childhood vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, has been found to cluster in middle- to high-income areas among parents with at least a college degree who preferred social media narratives over evidence-based vaccine information delivered by clinicians.” 

Regrettably, pediatric vaccine hesitancy now has been responsible for several measles outbreaks in the US, including a recent one in central Ohio involving local acquired cases in 85 children, 36 of whom (42%) had to be hospitalized for complications.

Anyone doubting the benefits of vaccination need only look to low-income parts of the world where measles vaccination is inaccessible, and many thousands of children continue to die each year due to preventable disease.

Unfortunately, with the success of pediatric vaccination campaigns to date, increasing numbers of people have become complacent and underestimate the actual risk of forgoing vaccination.

In addition to making a difference regarding childhood immunization, communication regarding the potential benefits of vaccination can hopefully also improve the number of individuals accepting vaccination to protect against COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus disease …


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