There is a perception out there that vaccines saved us from the deadly diseases of the 19th and 20th centuries. But did they?
Please review the evidence below.
You will see that in developed nations, mortality from these diseases declined dramatically before vaccines came in, with the trend heading downward (smallpox and polio excepted, they have different stories). This was largely even before antibiotics were widely used.
Vaccine protagonists argue we can see the worth of vaccines better by looking at graphs showing disease incidence (morbidity), rather than by looking at mortality. However death rates give us the most accurate picture of what is going on—incidence data only includes reported cases, and many cases of disease are never reported, but deaths usually are.
Also, although incidence data show declining disease rates after introduction of some vaccines, this is not significant if those diseases had become mild in the vast majority of cases anyway, due to improvements in the health of populations.
If the slope of a mortality graph is pointing downwards for a long time with no vaccine, it’s reasonable to expect it would continue to go down if not interfered with, and that serious side effects of the disease would be declining too.
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England and Wales measles mortality 1839 to 1978.
US measles mortality 1900 to 1988.
England and Wales whooping cough mortality rate, 1838 to 1978.
(Record of mortality in England and Wales for 95 years as provided by the Office of National Statistics, published 1997; Report to The Honourable Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Bart, MP, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, June 30, 1860, pp. a4, 205; Essay on Vaccination by Charles T. Pearce, MD, Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; Parliamentary Papers, the 62nd Annual Return of the Registrar General 1899 (1891–1898))
Whooping cough (pertussis) mortality Australia 1870 to 1970
Graph from Fooling Ourselves: on the fundamental value of vaccines by Greg Beattie
Diphtheria mortality, in England and Wales. Diphtheria vaccination began in 1920, and became widespread in the 1940s.
Diphtheria mortality UK vs USA. An early form of the diphtheria vaccine in limited use from 1920, widespread vaccination early 1940s (UK), late 1940s (USA).
Mumps mortality in England and Wales, 1901 to 1999 (mumps vaccination started 1988, in MMR)
England and Wales mortality for measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria and smallpox, 1838 to 1978. Note – there was no vaccine for scarlet fever.
United States mortality rates from various infectious diseases from 1900 to 1965. Notice the diphtheria and typhoid graphs almost match each other, despite the fact there was no widespread use of a typhoid vaccine. There was no vaccine for scarlet fever.
(Vital Statistics of the United States 1937, 1938, 1943, 1944, 1949, 1960, 1967, 1976, 1987, 1992; Historical Statistics of the United States— Colonial Times to 1970 Part 1; Health, United States, 2004, US Department of Health and Human Services; Vital Records & Health Data Development Section, Michigan Department of Community Health; US Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003; Reported Cases and Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases, United States, 1950–2008)
Massachusetts tuberculosis, diphtheria, typhoid, measles, and smallpox mortality rates from 1861 to 1970 (although US national records did not begin until 1900, records in some areas began earlier, and give us a chance to see what was going on before 1900). There was no widespread use of a vaccine for typhoid.
(Historical Statistics of the United States—Colonial Times to 1970 Part 1, Bureau of the Census, p. 63)
FRANCE measles mortality rate. Note – measles vaccination rate was less than 20% in 1983 and less than 40% in 1989.
US influenza and pneumonia mortality rates 1900 to 2002, vaccination was introduced early 1970s
Note – In the US, influenza and pneumonia are bundled together, because influenza leads to pneumonia, and the exact cause of death cannot be determined.
Above graph magnified, 1960 to 2002, includes vaccine coverage in blue
This is what US investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson wrote in 2014:
“An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.”
Read it here: Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All
In Australia, flu deaths are estimated by calculating a fixed percentage of deaths of people aged 50 and over, would you believe it. (One percentage for ages 50-64, another for 65 and over). Source. This means every single person over 49 who dies contributes to the so-called number of flu deaths.
Australian flu deaths is estimated to be around 3,500 annually, by the way. This article Flu-related deaths triple in NSW proclaiming flu deaths in NSW had tripled that year, published August 2016, demonstrates a truer number – the most populous state in Australia had only 45 flu deaths by that late stage of the year, so how could the whole country have had 3,500?
And flu pandemics?
In 2011 Professor Collignon, professor of microbiology at the Australian National University and director of infectious diseases at Canberra Hospital, had this to say, regarding Australia’s 2009 swine flu episode:
“What was a bit surprising when we looked at some of the data from Canada and Hong Kong in the last year is that people who have been vaccinated in 2008 with the seasonal or ordinary vaccine seemed to have twice the risk of getting swine flu compared to the people who hadn’t received that vaccine.
“Some interesting data has become available which suggests that if you get immunised with the seasonal vaccine, you get less broad protection than if you get a natural infection.
“It is particularly relevant for children because it is a condition they call original antigenic sin, which basically means if you get infected with a natural virus, that gives you not only protection against that virus but similar viruses or even in fact quite different flu viruses in the next year.
“We may be perversely setting ourselves up that if something really new and nasty comes along, that people who have been vaccinated may in fact be more susceptible compared to getting this natural infection.
Source: Vaccines may have increased swine flu risk (ABC)
Listen to audio of Peter Collignon speaking (highly recommended) New Controversy Surrounding Flu Vaccination
Tetanus mortality England and Wales 1901 to 1999. Vaccine widespread in late 1940s.
Note – The numbers of farm labourers fell by half after the second world war, and the increase in mechanisation reduced the chances of the types of injuries likely to result in tetanus.
From the CDC (US gov):
“Tetanus is not contagious from person to person. It is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is infectious but not contagious.”
“A marked decrease in mortality from tetanus occurred from the early 1900s to the late 1940s. In the late 1940s, tetanus toxoid was introduced into routine childhood immunization”
Meningitis in Australia
The Hib vaccine was introduced in 1993 in Australia to combat bacterial meningitis – bacterial meningitis can be caused by a wide variety of bacteria but the Hib bacterium was the predominant one found in bacterial meningitis cases at the time. The Hib vaccine reduced the incidence of Hib infections significantly in just two years, and Australian health officials are very fond of promoting this.
However the next two graphs show the Hib vaccine made no difference to the rate of decline in meningitis deaths—there are unlimited species and strains of bacteria that could cause meningitis in a susceptible individual, so others take the place of those removed by vaccination.
To remove a few strains of bacteria causing meningitis and say a vaccine has been successful, when the rate of meningitis deaths has not been affected, is fanciful.
Meningitis in Australia in the under fives.
Australian graphs are from Fooling Ourselves: on the fundamental value of vaccines by Greg Beattie
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Two diseases with “a different story”
“Polio” is short for “poliomyelitis”, which means “inflammation of the grey matter” affecting the grey matter in the spinal cord and sometimes the brain stem. This inflammation can cause paralysis, usually temporarily, and then it is called “paralytic poliomyelitis”.
When the polio vaccine came into use in 1955, polio was officially defined as being caused by poliovirus, an enterovirus that had circulated freely through our gut since ancient times.
Unlike other diseases that vaccines get the credit for fixing, the first serious US polio outbreak occured in 1894, there was a major epidemic in 1916, then things got worse in the 30s, 40s and early 50s. What could have caused this mysterious appearance at a time when mortality from other infectious diseases had declined a great deal?
Pesticides lead arsenate and DDT, interacting with a virus or viruses, is a strong candidate. It is possible the pesticides were damaging nerves, allowing the entry of normally-harmless enteroviruses.
In the US, lead arsenate was first widely used in 1893 in Boston, and the first larger cluster of polio happened there that summer (26 cases), then the first major epidemic (132 cases, 18 deaths) occurred in Vermont the following summer, in 1894, the year the formula for lead arsenate was first published, by Vermont’s state entomologist. Source.
Summer was the time fruit crops were sprayed with insecticides.
(Before 1950, DDT was hailed as a miracle of progress that was virtually non-toxic to humans, in spite of FDA’s warnings and attempts to keep it off the market. This photo on the left is one of several similar photos from Zimmerman, et al, DDT: Killer of Killers (1946). The advertisement on the right is from an unknown source, though it appears to be circa 1954.)
DDT was sprayed around freely in the 1940s and early 1950s. It is still used in India, some African countries and elsewhere.
The evidence does show the polio vaccine eliminated outbreaks of polio associated with poliovirus in the US and other countries. However, before the vaccine, polio was usually diagnosed without a pathology test for poliovirus – it was common for doctors to diagnose ‘poliovirus’ so patients could get health funding.
Therefore other enteroviruses besides poliovirus may well have been causing poliomyelitis, or polio may have been simply caused by pesticides without the involvement of a virus (although the fact that polio vaccines lead to many cases of paralysis does point to the involvement of a virus).
After vaccination was introduced in 1955, a strict pathology test was required to confirm a patient had polio. Also, at this point the definition of polio changed—paralysis had to last for 60 days instead of just 24 hours, and non-paralytic cases were no longer called polio.
These factors lowered the number of polio cases significantly, making it look like the vaccine was very successful. We should also note the book ‘Silent Spring’, which was influencial in DDT use in agriculture being banned, came out in 1962.
Note – Australian nurse Sister Kenny successfully treated polio paralysis of limbs with hot packs, massage and gentle movement, instead of with long-term immobilisation, cutting tendons, painful electric treatment and braces.
This earned her condemnation by the medical establishment and gratititude from the people she helped recover. Sources
An Australian outback doctor, Dr. Archie Kalokerinos, who visited polio victims on farms, noticed children played in drums of “cottonfield spray”.
Smallpox vaccination began around 1798. It was a disgusting, unclean practice and many people died from it—the arm was sliced open and pus from an infected cow’s udder was rubbed into the wounds (a practice that persisted for over 100 years, with fresh pus being replaced by dried scabs later in the 19th century).
National mortality records began in 1838 in England and Wales, and 1900 in the US, so we have no before and after evidence for the effect of this vaccine.
Doctors at the time were enthusiastic, and pushed for laws making vaccination mandatory, in 1853 and 1868 in England. But we should note they were making good money from it, and they were the same generation of doctors who refused to wash their hands between autopsies and internal examinations in women in birthing hospitals, causing high childbirth death rates, believing a gentleman’s hands could not spread disease (the idea that germs caused disease was not promoted by Louis Pasteur till the 1860s, and there was resistance to it by doctors). See Semmelweis reflex.
The following figure shows England and Wales smallpox and scarlet fever deaths 1838 to 1922 (sources below). Note – there was no vaccine for scarlet fever, but it declined dramatically anyway (and the bacterium causes strep throat today), suggesting smallpox declined by itself as living and working conditions improved.
Also, the 1870 smallpox outbreak was the worst outbreak in England ever, and occurred afer 70 years of vaccination with 100% coverage in many areas, demonstrating smallpox vaccination was of no use whatsoever.
(Record of mortality in England and Wales for 95 years as provided by the Office of National Statistics, published 1997; Report to The Honourable Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Bart, MP, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, June 30, 1860, pp. a4, 205; Written answer by Lord E. Percy to Parliamentary question addressed by Mr. March, MP, to the Minister to Health on July 16, 1923; Essay on Vaccination by Charles T. Pearce, MD, Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England)
England and Wales smallpox deaths vs. deaths from the smallpox vaccine from 1906 to 1922 (source below).
(Written answer by Lord E. Percy to Parliamentary question addressed by Mr. March, MP, to the Minister to Health on July 16, 1923)
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Should we be afraid?
This graphic shows the odds of dying from measles in 1962, the year before the measles vaccine came in, along with odds of dying from various causes in year 2000, in the US.
If you are told we should be worried about “vaccine-preventable” diseases because they have dangerous side effects, please know these are extremely rare. See what some health officials said before vaccines were introduced:
This is a report from the US Public Health Service’s National Communicable Disease Center, Atlanta, discussing the introduction of widespread measles vaccination in 1967, after 4 years of testing.
Epidemiologic basis for eradication of measles in 1967.
“Complications are infrequent, and, with adequate medical care, fatality is rare. Susceptibility to the disease after the waning of maternal immunity is universal; immunity following recovery is solid and lifelong in duration.”
So why did they make the measles vaccine?
Dr. Alexander Langmuir, the father of modern day epidemiology and a strong supporter for development of the measles vaccine, wrote in 1962:
To those who ask me, ‘Why do you wish to eradicate measles?’ I reply with the same answer that [Sir Edmund] Hilary used when asked why he wished to climb Mt. Everest. He said “because it is there.” To this may be added “And it can be done.”
Langmuir didn’t say: “Because it’s maiming thousands with blindness and encephalitis and killing hundreds.” (thanks RB & SH)
The following video has anecdotal evidence that measles was considered a mild disease in the 1960s (before the vaccine) – it’s doubtful they would have made jokes like these about diphtheria, before diphtheria vaccination became widespread.
There’s one thing wrong in some of these clips: adults rarely got measles, because unlike today, the vast majority had life-long immunity from getting it as a child, and from getting “boosters” from exposure to the measles virus in the people around them – the populaton had a natural herd immunity.
Also see this article:
Freedom of Information documents show the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and Ministry of Defence agreed as early as 1974 that:
“there was no need to introduce routine vaccination against mumps” because “complications from the disease were rare” JCVI minutes 11 Dec 1974.
From the British National Formulary 1985 and 1986 (the BNF is a joint publication of the British Medical Association and RPSGB):
“Since mumps and its complications are very rarely serious there is little indication for the routine use of mumps vaccine”
Chicken pox vaccine is on the schedule in the US and Australia, but few other countries. This information page from the UK National Health Service explains they don’t vaccinate children for chicken pox because chicken pox vaccination leads to more shingles in older people (chicken pox and shingles are caused by exactly the same virus).
Chickenpox vaccine FAQs
Chickenpox is a mild and common illness that most children catch at some point
the vast majority of children recover quickly and easily
If you vaccinate children against chickenpox, you lose this natural boosting so current levels of immunity in adults will drop and more shingles will occur.
Professor Fiona Stanley
Professor Fiona Stanley is a children’s medical researcher based in Perth, and she was Australian of the Year for children’s health in 2003. She wrote the following in her summary document of public health ‘Child Health Since Federation’ in 2001, pp 370, 378 & 379:
Infectious Deaths fell before widespread vaccination was implemented.
The rates of infectious diseases in Australia were very low from 1950 to 2000 and the majority of the fall in the under 5 mortality rates (80%) had occurred by 1960: prior to the introduction and widespread use of the majority of vaccines.
While in America, the following statement appears in this review of health in the 20th century, in the journal Pediatrics: Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans During the 20th Century (Pages 1313-5)
Thus vaccination does not account for the impressive decline in mortality seen in the first half of the century.
So perhaps we don’t need to be afraid these diseases will become serious threats if we don’t vaccinate – please don’t believe the scare campaigns run by the vaccine manufacturers and their apologists, they are in it for profit (& power & prestige).
There is a lot more information available to support a case that vaccines did not save us. Here are some good sources:
Dissolving Illusions – Graphs
Vaccines Did Not Save Us – 2 Centuries Of Official Statistics
A Measles Death, Vaccines, and the Media’s Failure to Inform
Measles: The New Red Scare
The Flu Vaccine: Something to Sneeze At ~ by Roman Bystrianyk
Everything You Learned About The Cause of Polio Is Wrong
The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic
Response to “Isabella B’s” “Why Dr Suzanne Humphries, an anti-vaccine activist, is lying to you about measles” by Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk
* You will find vaccine protagonists never provide long-term mortality graphs to support their arguments – please note that if they give ‘morbidity’ data, morbidity means incidence, not mortality.
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You may look at all this and still think vaccinating is worth doing because you believe vaccines don’t cause any harm – if that’s the case, please read Vaccine Ingredients on this website.