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Vaccine-Preventable Deaths Reach New Low in U.S.
Date:11/13/2007

cough, which also peaked in the 1930s, used to affect more than 200,000 people every year and killed as many as 7,500 people. Today, about 15,000 people are infected with pertussis annually, and less than 30 people die each year. (An additional pertussis booster vaccination has been recommended for adults and will likely reduce these rates even further, the researchers said.)

"These achievements are largely due to reaching and maintaining high vaccine coverage levels from infancy throughout childhood by successful implementation of the infant and childhood immunization program," the authors said.

"These results are very exciting," said Dr. Louis Saravolatz, an infectious disease expert and chief of internal medicine at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. "If you look at a particular age cohort, you see a phenomenal reduction of about 33,000 deaths prevented. That means 33,000 people from that group are still alive today, because they were vaccinated."

Any gains made can be lost, however, if parents stop immunizing their children, or if teens and adults don't get necessary booster immunizations.

"These vaccines work, and they improve the health of our children and our population, and we should be very grateful for that," said Dr. Marian Michaels, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "But, we should not become complacent. These diseases aren't eradicated everywhere, and the world is so globally small now that these infections could come back if we don't maintain high immunization rates."

Saravolatz said that while this study is "great news," there is definitely still room for improvement in reducing disease in other parts of the world, and in the United States to strengthen adult vaccination rates.

"We need to do a better job in adult medicine, for pneumococcal vaccine and the influenza vaccine. Pediatricians are much more in tune with immunization schedu
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