Vaccines are a cornerstone of keeping our children and communities safe and healthy. As a pediatrician, I discuss them with families every day. They are one of the safest and most effective recommendations that health care providers make.
Over the last year, our world has been turned upside down by one infectious disease. As we begin to emerge from a pandemic of one disease, we face the threat of diseases that have all but been eradicated emerging again. The Missouri Legislature is currently debating a bill, HB37, that could result in the return of diseases like the measles, meningitis and whooping cough. The legislation would lead to our daycares and schools being less safe, becoming vulnerable to outbreaks.
The measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, but we have been fortunate to have a vaccine for it in the United States for more than 50 years. In other parts of the world, where measles is still common and threatens so many lives, families wait to name their children until they feel the threat of the child contracting the deadly disease has passed. Our most vulnerable populations are the most at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, including newborns, the elderly, immunocompromised, and pregnant women and their unborn children.
Vaccine-preventable illness can also come with huge costs. A study in Iowa in 2004 found the public cost to contain just one case of the measles was nearly $150,000. When there is concern about a whooping cough outbreak, people with symptoms may be asked to stay home from school or work for up to three weeks. As our economy begins to rebuild following the COVID pandemic, we cannot afford to increase the possibility of the next one being just around the corner.
Vaccines are one of the best success stories we have in modern medicine. Immunizations provided through the Vaccines for Children program have prevented an estimated 419 million illnesses and nearly 1 million deaths. In addition, these vaccines have saved our society an estimated $1.9 trillion in subsequent costs. As we move forward from COVID, we cannot move backwards into some of history's worst diseases. We have safe, effective vaccines that help protect our most vulnerable populations, as well as the community as a whole. Bills like HB37 put that safety at risk and could prove to be very costly.