Does a vaccine have the ability to cause autism? Are there health risks associated with the administration of this vaccine? Many parents have concerns about the health of their children, but we are only two generations removed from one of the scariest epidemics that parents in the developed world ever faced. Kids who caught polio were at a high risk of developing long-term symptoms that included paralytic conditions, which forced some to live the remainder of their lives in an iron lung. A handful of polio survivors are still doing this.
Facts About the Polio Vaccine
1. The last cases of naturally occurring paralytic polio in the United States were in 1979.
2. From 1980 through 1999, there were 162 confirmed cases of paralytic polio cases reported.
3. The last imported case caused by wild poliovirus into the United States was reported in 1993.
4. 154 of the 162 reported cased of paralytic polio cases occurred from vaccine-related infections that were caused be live oral poliovirus vaccine.
5. Polio vaccines in the US now are all injections. Oral vaccines that have caused paralytic polio in the past are still commonly used around the world.
6. Children today get four polio injections, with the first dose administered at 2 months of age. The final booster dose occurs at 4-6 years of age.
7. The live virus polio vaccine is responsible for an average of 8 cases of polio every year.
8. Between 1979-2000, there were13,641 reports of adverse events following use of the oral polio vaccine.
9. 540. That’s the number of deaths that have been reported in US government databases that have been attributed to the polio vaccine.
10. From 1923 to 1953, before the Salk killed-virus vaccine was introduced, the polio death rate in the United States and England had already declined on its own by 47% and 55% respectively.
11. In 1952, there were over 3,000 reported deaths from polio. In 1955, when mass inoculations occurred, there were 1,043 deaths from polio.
12. In 1977, Salk testified that 87% of the polio cases which occurred in the US after 1970 were the by-product of the polio vaccine.
13. From its peak rates, global efforts have caused a 99% reduction in the infection rates of poliovirus.
14. 1 in 200 children who get polio will have irreversible paralysis, which usually occurs in the legs. Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
15. Only 416 cases of paralytic polio were reported globally in 2013, attributed to the polio vaccine.
16. Only 3 countries have never used the polio vaccine: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
17. 20 million volunteers worldwide who have collectively immunized nearly 3 billion children over the past 20 years.
18. When India was still polio-endemic, there were 640 000 vaccination booths, 2.3 million vaccinators, 200 million doses of vaccine, 6.3 million ice packs, 191 million homes visited and 172 million children immunized all in just 1 day.
19. 80% of the world’s population now living in certified polio-free regions.
The good news is that with the polio vaccine, incident rates of this disease have dramatically declined since 1955. Over 70% of people who contract polio have no symptoms, but what makes this disease so dangerous is that being symptomless does not mean the disease won’t transmit to others. We cannot forget the risks of polio when we consider the pros and cons of vaccinations on the whole.
Are Vaccines Part of the Greater Good?
With 162 children becoming paralyzed because of the polio vaccine over the last 20 years in the United States, there are 162 families who are very likely to believe that vaccines can be harmful. As with any medical science, there are always failures that occur on the way to success. Even Jonas Salk, who invented the vaccine, had live virus errors happen which caused polio infections, paralytic conditions, and death in children who were healthy until the vaccine.
It is a choice that all parents must make for their children. Are the risks of the vaccine greater than the risks of contracting a wild case of polio? With the oral version of the vaccine banned since 2000 for US children, the risks are much lower. For those who still have OPV as part of their vaccine schedule, however, these facts are important to consider. The risks are small with the polio vaccine, but they are there.