1. Influenza kills more people in the United States than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
In the U.S., we tend to underestimate flu. Perhaps it’s because it’s so common (an average of 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu every year), but many people don’t think the flu is that big of a deal. In actuality, the flu can be very deadly — even in previously healthy individuals.
Let’s be clear: all of these diseases can cause potentially devastating consequences. But the flu vaccine is just as important as the other vaccines included in the recommended immunization schedules, yet it is one of the least utilized. Less than half of the U.S. population over the age of 6 months get the vaccine every year.
2. More than an estimated 80 percent of U.S. adults are not up-to-date on their whooping cough vaccination.
It’s recommended that adults over the age of 18 receive at least one dose of a pertussis-containing vaccine to continue being protected. Yet many adults have no clue whether they are up-to-date and can inadvertently transmit the bacteria to small children without even realizing it. For these infants, pertussis can be incredibly dangerous. In fact, roughly half of children under 1 year old who get pertussis will be hospitalized, and one or two out of every 100 will die.
Pregnant women in particular should talk to their medical provider about getting a dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine during their third trimester in order to pass protection onto the child before they’re born. This early protection is crucial to protecting young infants during those first few months of life until they can be vaccinated themselves.
3. Vaccines save more lives than seat belts in the U.S.
Please don’t get me wrong. This statistic isn’t here to belittle the life-saving impact of seat belts. They are an important safety tool to protect ourselves and our families. But so are vaccines. And when you look at the estimated number of lives saved, vaccines prevent even more deaths than seat belts and child care seats (combined). That’s really saying something.
4. We’re missing out on an opportunity to protect thousands of young women from cancer.
Despite early results demonstrating the high effectiveness of HPV vaccine in preventing cancer-causing HPV, only about 1/3 of young women in the U.S. complete the 3-dose series. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “For every year that increases in coverage are delayed, another 4,400 women will go on to develop cervical cancer.” That number is unacceptable. We can do better.