Increases in Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Any discussion about the spread of communicable disease has to include information on the importance of vaccines. Vaccines are one of the most important public health accomplishments of the 20th century. They have had a dramatic impact on reducing the number and severity of communicable disease outbreaks and are a cornerstone of public health and disease-prevention efforts. Several diseases, such as smallpox and polio, have been eradicated in the United States as a result of vaccination efforts. However, many other vaccine-preventable diseases persist, and in cases such as measles, have increased in prevalence because of lowered immunity in the general population.
Vaccines are listed as the top public health achievement of the 20th century. Over the past century, vaccines have been developed to prevent many diseases. Despite this success, however, more than 3 million individuals worldwide die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Approximately 1.5 million of these deaths are in children less than 5 years old.
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Editor’s Note: Health officials continue to recommend vaccination as a means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. A recent mumps outbreak in Washington found that approximately half of the infected individuals never received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine.