Letters to the Editor

A guest columnist in a July 30 edition does the families of Kodiak a disservice with his article, “Questioning the safety and necessity of vaccines.”

Sure, mixed in with the conspiracy theories, and selective, misleading and false statements, are a few kernels of truth. However, abandoning vaccination, which the author seems to condone, will only cause unnecessary suffering.

It is true that safe drinking water, decreased crowding and other public health measures account for impressive declines in infectious disease in the first half of the last century.

It is true that pharmaceutical companies make money off of vaccines.

But, it is also undeniable that vaccines do save lives, far in excess of complications.

Ask the nearest adult who lived during the 1950s about polio. In that era, anytime a child contracted a cold, their parents lived in fear that they might be crippled with polio. During 1951 to 1954, an average of 16,316 paralytic polio cases and 1,879 deaths from polio were reported each year in the United States. Then the polio vaccine was introduced and the disease has since been nearly eradicated from the planet. When was the last time you met someone diagnosed with polio?

When I was a third year medical student on pediatric ER rotations at the University of Washington in 1989, we diagnosed young children with meningitis every day. That same year the H. Flu vaccine was introduced. Since then, the incidence of H. Flu meningitis in children has decreased 99 percent. When was the last time you heard of a young child developing meningitis? In the past 10 years, I can’t remember a single case, and I treat sick children every day.

The author implies that measles is benign and the vaccine against it, ineffective and dangerous.

In fact, measles is a deadly disease:

In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally — about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.

Meanwhile, during 2000 to 2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths — making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Ironically, the success of vaccination has caused some to conclude that they are not necessary, and some have grown complacent. But most of these vaccine-preventable illnesses will come back if we stop routine vaccination — witness the recent surge in measles and pertussis in the United States. We’ve even seen cases of pertussis in Kodiak.

Let’s stop fighting the battles of the last century. Let’s vaccinate our kids and spend our energy addressing the real threats to Kodiak’s youths: obesity, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamine, heroin, motor vehicles and guns.

— Paul Zimmer, MD

Medical Director

Kodiak Community

Health Center

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