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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Pre-vaccine era: A hellish vision that should give pause to the anti-vaccine movement

As we continue to see the return of childhood diseases out of misguided concerns about vaccine safety, parents may want to stop and give heartfelt thanks that they were not trying to raise a family in the pre-vaccine era. What was it like? Well, recall one of those fantastically hellish paintings by 15th century Dutch master Hieronymous Bosch. That might visually do the following numbers justice, as cited by Paul Offit, MD, in his book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

“In the early 1900s children routinely suffered and died from diseases now easily prevented by vaccines. Americans could expect that every year diphtheria would kill 12,000 people, mostly young children; rubella, (German measles) would cause as many as 20,000 babies to be born blind, deaf or mentally disabled. Polio would permanently paralyze 15,000 children and kill 1,000, and mumps would be a common cause of deafness. Because of vaccines all of these disease have been completely or virtually eliminated. But now because more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children some of these diseases are coming back.”