I sat enthralled at Grand Rounds as I listened to Jose Santos, M.D., Director of the National Vaccine Program for Mexico. While we struggle with the subtleties of further lessening the side effects of vaccines, Mexico is engaged in an enthusiastic, all-out push to immunize their children, resulting in a revolution in that nation’s health.
In 1990, when only 40% of their children were immunized, there were over 68,000 cases of measles. That year, the disease killed over 6,000 children. By 1996, the immunization rate had risen to an impressive 97.6%, and they had only 2 cases of measles — the last two they have had — even though other countries in the region (Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and last week Costa Rica) continue to have measles epidemics. Mexican resolve has resulted in similar dramatic success with other important immunizations.
I’m all for yearly re-evaluation of whether or not the benefits of each vaccine outweigh the current risks. I’m all for reformulating vaccines to make them as safe as possible. But it is refreshing to set these questions against the backdrop of the immense boon immunizations have been, and continue to be, to children’s health!