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.