Health and Science News for Parents

A look at the numbers in vaccine reactions

written by Guest Author

Allison Hagood, today's guest blogger, is co-author of "Your Baby's Best Shot" with Stacy Mintzer Herlihy.

Today’s post is a guest blog by Allison Hagood, co-author of the recent (highly recommended!) book “Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives.” The book is filled with factual, well-sourced information and is great read for parents wanting to understand more about vaccines – the facts about what’s in them, the actual risks associated with them and how misinformation has frightened parents unnecessarily. Here Allison addresses some of the math when it comes to serious adverse effects of vaccines – and she includes some great links if you want to read more.

Parents are bombarded with misleading information from anti-vaccine advocates.  One piece of information that those advocates like to exploit is the existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). Anti-vaccine advocates use the fact that this program exists, and that it has paid out over 3,000 claims since its creation, to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous.

Let’s talk numbers.

The NVICP was created in 1988. The reasons for its creation are complex, and a topic for another post.

Since then, as of March 4, 2013, 14,548 petitions have been filed under the program, 12,566 have been adjudicated by the program, 3,256 have been compensated and 9,946 have been dismissed with no compensation. The last two numbers don’t equal the adjudication numbers because sometimes claims are settled with an agreement between parties and not by the court.

There are an estimated 4 million children born (pdf) in the U.S. every year. Therefore, if you start at 1989 (the year after the NVICP was created, since it was created in October of 1988), there have been approximately 92 million children born in America since the creation of the NVICP.

Average vaccination coverage in America hovers around 95%, with some areas being higher, some being lower, and coverage rates varying for various childhood vaccines. Therefore, since the NVICP was created, approximately 87.4 million children have been vaccinated at least partially, if not completely, according to the CDC recommendations.

The percentage of petitions to actual vaccines administered is therefore 0.016%. One one-hundredth of one percent of cases of vaccination have resulted in a petition being filed.

The percentage of compensations to actual vaccines administered is 0.003%. Three one-THOUSANDTHS of one percent of cases of vaccination have resulted in compensation for injury.

I don’t know about you, but a safety rating of 99.997% seems really great to me!

Additionally, the NVICP claims are not limited to children, and the above calculations are by person, not by injection, so the actual safety rate is significantly higher than 99.997%. If you included all adult vaccinations, and counted number of injections rather than number of vaccinated persons, you’d get something that probably looks like 99.9999999999999999% of child and adult vaccinations resulting in no serious adverse events.

Let’s put those safety statistics into perspective.

Your odds of dying in a car accident (pdf) are 1 in 98, or 1.02%, or 340 times greater than experiencing an adverse event from a vaccine.

The number of unintentional injuries in America in 2009 was 38,900,000 (pdf). The population in America in 2009 was approximately 307 million. If every one of the unintentional injuries in America was to a different person (and not multiple injuries to individuals), that means that 12.67% of the population was injured by accident in 2009.

Even if we control for multiple injuries, the chances of being injured in general (car accident, work accident, accident in the home, etc.) are thousands of times greater than developing a compensable adverse vaccine reaction (one that the NVICP will pay compensation for).

Bottom line – vaccines are safe, and save lives.  Don’t let the misuse of the NVICP data scare you from making the easiest decision you can make as a parent – vaccinate your children, unless there is a legitimate medical reason not to do so.

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29 Responses to “A look at the numbers in vaccine reactions”

  1. karen betts

    There’s a law suit waiting to happen Alison!!! You’re put you’re name to the claim that ‘vaccines are safe’ so one size fits all? You can’t sell information like that, make money out of it and not expect a parent, who’s child IS damaged by a vaccine to not sue you!

    • I will also put my name to the claim that vaccines are safe.

    • Vaccines are safe.

    • Karen Betts:
      1. Vaccines are overwhelmingly safer than having the diseases they protect against
      2. Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe overall. There is no rational reason to refuse, delay, or space out vaccines for almost all children.
      3. Your litigation threat is completely foolish.

    • Sue Brennan

      Did you not understand the math? There is three one thousandths of one percent of a chance that someone will be able to demonstrate vaccine injury well enough to be compensated. This is by no means “a lawsuit waiting to happen.” The author’s claim is based on verifiable statistics, which she explains very clearly and thorpughly. Perhaps you need to have someone explain the mathematics to you.

    • Lori Machin

      I’ll also put my name on it.

      Vaccines are safe. It’s beeb proven countless time.Willful ignorance has deadly consequences.

    • Lee Collier

      My name is Lee Collier. Dr Lee Collier, licensed to practice in the UK. I also put my name to the claim that “vaccines are safe”. Sue me if you want, I’ll win.

    • Matt Sullivan

      you know what is really unsafe? the medicines they use to treat the illnesses you get when you dont vaccinate.
      you know what else isnt safe? not vaccinating your child
      you know what else isnt safe? driving a car, walking on the sidewalk, bathing, sleeping, eating, drinking. all have mortality rates.
      vaccines are safe. please sue everyone over this, lose all your money, and not be able to pay for your internet.
      GOOD DAY

  2. Dorit Reiss

    If Allison would be in trouble for that, so would most of our scientists. Anyone is welcome to sue; for many reasons, they would have no claim. Under any law.

  3. Alice Wasney

    As recognized by governments and researchers and medical providers the world over, yes, vaccines are safe.

  4. Allison

    I am comfortable with my post above, and the information contained therein, as well as with the book itself. The scientific consensus regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines is thoroughly explained in the book, with 18 pages of endnotes and a 10-page bibliography of references. I am happy to discuss those references.

  5. […] Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives.”  This post originally appeared at Red Wine & Apple Sauce. Photos courtesy of Microsoft stock […]

  6. Kevin

    To make claims that vaccines are safe contradicts historical, democratic and medical studies, and even the literature that is supplied by the manufacturer (required by FDA). Why is this false science still being promoted?… PROFIT,Pride and selfishness and ignorance. It’s like tabacco science, asbestos science, fluoride science, etc.
    Here is good example/summary, amongst many:
    US Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund 3.5Billion in 2012 alone! Tip of the iceberg.
    There are many many resources, and presentations and studies by doctors who were once inside the vaccine industry that are exposing the vaccine fraud: with one goal, to save the your health and the health of your children. That’s the agenda here, not profit.
    Disease was on the decline BEFORE vaccines.
    To treat a child as a mere statistic, and lie to families about the risks, is immoral and unethical. Intention is the only difference between murder and manslaughter in a case of death. However the result is still the same.
    PS. Contrary to the propaganda still popular today is that Polio was engineered. Note the recent failure of the Gates campaign in India.

    • Dorit Reiss

      It is a little sad that your response to a thoughtful posts that provides data and numbers is a set of claims that has no data behind it and are very misleading. Vaccines are carefully monitored and studied for safety by researches all over the world with various funding sources. If there is a problem, action is taken immediately. As the post points out, no serious defender would say that vaccines are 100% safe; but as the numbers analyzed show, the risks are very rare – 0.003%. While any child harmed is a tragedy, vaccines harm rarely and generally prevent very, very serious harms. To protect children, we should vaccinate all those who do not have medical issues that prohibit it (very few). As to diseases – no, they were not in decline before diseases, as this article shows:

    • Dorit Reiss

      Polio engineered? Then why do we see sufferers in pictures from ancient Egypt?

    • Pasta

      The woo is strong in this one.

  7. Allison

    Unfortunately, Kevin repeats most of the typical vaccine denialist lies regarding history and the effects of vaccines on disease.

    Youtube videos are, of course, not scientific evidence. And the mention of asbestos, tobacco, and fluoride are an attempt to claim that because some other instances of materials being accepted for use have been found to be problematic, ALL materials will eventually be found to be problematic. Which, of course, is simply not the case (and fluoride in the amounts found in municipal water supplies have been determined to be safe except for the conspiracy theorists).

    Kevin’s mention of the NVICP indicates that he hasn’t even READ the piece above, much less understood it.

    Disease MORTALITY (death rates) were indeed on the decline prior to vaccines, based on a lot of factors such as improved medical interventions. However, disease INCIDENCE was not, and vaccines not only prevent death but also prevent suffering and lifelong damage from vaccine-preventable diseases.

    The idea that polio is an invented/engineered disease is beyond offensive to the numerous victims of this disease and does not even deserve a comment.

    • Allison

      Kevin’s accusations that doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and other members of the science-based medicine community are committing murder is repugnant, disgusting, and vile, but typical of the vaccine denialist mindset.

      In order for vaccines to be a conspiracy, the pharmaceutical companies would have to have bought off the governments of every country in which vaccines have been studied; every health agency of every one of those countries, both governmental and non-governmental; every employee of those agencies; and every independent scientist who has studied vaccines.

      To belief such a thing is to imply that every single individual in every single organization list above is a psychopath, without compassion and incapable of caring about the fate of wives, husbands, children, siblings, parents, or other loved one.

  8. ChrisKid

    Anyone who thinks that the campaign to eradicate polio in India is a failure will need to explain the absence of new cases there in the past two years. Anyone who thinks that polio was engineered for some reason (never really explained) will need to tell us, in rational terms, how that was done worldwide and why any disease would be created just to be destroyed again. With evidence.

  9. Lance

    Claims that there are many studies and doctors that expose the “Vaccine Fraud”, yet only provides a YouTube video as his evidence. *Slow clap*

  10. […] whether compared to the number of vaccine doses administered or to injuries from other sources, 3412 claims in 25 years is a tiny number.   And while close to $2.8 billion sounds like a lot, the costs of motor vehicle accidents in 2009 […]

  11. […] This study of VAERS data showed that less than 3% of adverse reaction reports from vaccines are actually found to be related to the vaccine.  Further, when the data of the verified vaccine reactions were scrutinised, the majority of them were of a minor nature such as a low grade fever or soreness at the injection site.  When you do the real numbers, the risk of serious vaccine injury is magnitudes less than 1%.   […]

  12. […] influenza, for other diseases, in the military, in medical and nursing school). A calculation done here found the rate of claims to vaccines to be less than […]

  13. […] And UC-Hastings professor Dorit Reiss Rubenstein points out that contra Holland, the vaccine injury rate is staggeringly low — less than 0.003% of the vaccine administered. […]

  14. […] These are not vaccine induced diseases. […]

  15. […] that their child has actually been injured by a vaccine (which is held up by the fact that the vast majority of applicants to the US Vaccine Court are found to not be caused by vaccines – and given that this court has a very low burden for applicants, that’s saying […]

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