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How The Measles Vaccine Saved 20 Million Lives

We know the MMR vaccine prevents measles. But just how many lives have been saved?

Measles is not a minor childhood disease.

Roughly 90,000 people die from measles each year. For children under the age of five, measles is more deadly than meningitis and, worldwide, toddlers are more likely to die from measles than car crashes. The World Health Organization considers it one of the top ten causes of childhood death.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released data illustrating how measles deaths have drastically declined since the introduction of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. The data also projects how many children would have died of measles were it not for the vaccine, and suggests that the MMR vaccines has saved 20 million lives globally since 2000.

Anti-vaccine parents are, fortunately, a loud minority. Although 30 percent of Americans think vaccines should not be mandatory, barely 9 percent actually think the MMR vaccine is unsafe. Not that the safety of the MMR vaccine is really up for grabs anymore. It is the consensus of every major public health organization, courts all the way up to the Federal Circuit, and even the journal that published the fraudulent paper that set off the vaccine scare, that vaccines do not cause autism. And in 2015, an incredibly thorough study put all anti-vax concerns to bed once and for all, after scientists failed to find any link between vaccines and autism in a cohort of 95,000 children.

Despite the MMR vaccine’s impeccable safety record, however, it seems 9 percent of our population is still worried about giving their kids routine shots. That’s why this CDC data is so important—it illustrates that there’s something out there far more dangerous than autism: measles.

The CDC data demonstrates that, without vaccines, 1.5 million people would have died from measles in 2017 alone. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. But even if the vaccine did cause autism, the fact that it has saved 20 million lives since 2000 makes a strong case for vaccinating your kids. The immortal (and occasionally foul-mouthed) Penn Jillette said it best: “Even if vaccination did cause autism—which it fucking doesn’t—anti-vaccination would still be bullshit.”