Over the last 20 years, vaccinations have prevented an estimated 731,700 premature deaths, 21 million hospitalizations and 322 million diseases, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.
Vaccines administered during the past two decades in the Vaccines for Children program also has saved the United States $1.7 trillion.
But work is far from over, the agency warned. In its report, CDC researchers said that when Americans get complacent about, or resist, vaccinations, years of battling diseases — such as measles — can be undone.
Measles were on the run in the United States until a couple of years ago. Cases spiked in 2011 to 220 — the highest number since 1996. Although reported cases fell to 189 last year, early signs indicate measles outbreaks could spike again in 2014.
The Vaccines for Children program was launched in 1994 due to a resurgence in measles outbreaks. This initiative both raised awareness about the measles comeback and offered free vaccinations to families that couldn’t afford them.
That program rapidly reduced the number of cases from the tens of thousands (with more than 100 fatalities) to the hundreds and tens, the CDC said. But as the numbers sneak up again, the CDC is sounding the vaccination alarm.
The VFC program will be expanded under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the CDC noted.
“Despite the U.S. immunization program’s success, 129 people in the U.S. have been reported to have measles this year in 13 outbreaks, as of April 18,” the CDC reported. That figure is well on its way to outpacing the last big outbreak year of 2011.
Part of the problem is that measles can cross international borders. In a release, the CDC said that “34 people, among the 129 cases this year, brought measles into the U.S. after being infected in other countries. Though not direct imports, most of the remaining cases are known to be linked to importations. Most people who reported having measles in 2014 were not vaccinated or did not know their vaccination status.”
Not surprisingly, the CDC “recommends people of all ages keep up to date with their vaccinations. CDC recommends two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months. Infants 6 through 11 months old should receive one dose of MMR vaccine before international travel.”