Vaccines and Vaccine-Preventable Disease by the Numbers

Vaccine Basics

Vaccine books to help you do your vaccine research.
Reading some of these books will help you to get educated about vaccines, make the right choice for your children, and get them protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

We can learn a lot by looking at the numbers behind vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.

16 - the number of vaccine-preventable diseases that kids are protected against when fully vaccinated, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, HPV, rotavirus, Hib, and flu.

1 - the number of vaccine-preventable diseases that have been eradicated - smallpox

13 - the number of vaccines children typically get, including DTaP, IPV (polio), hepatitis B, Hib, Prevnar 13, rotavirus, MMR, Varivax (chicken pox), hepatitis A, Tdap, HPV, MCV 4 (meningococcal vaccine), and influenza

0 - the number of vaccines made with antifreeze as an ingredient

28 - the number of doses of vaccines most kids get by age two years

105 million - the number of doses of flu vaccine in 2014 there were either thimerosal-free or preservative free (with a trace amount of thimerosal)

9 months - how long the Rotashield rotavirus vaccine was on the market before VAERS reports helped uncover an increased risk of intussusception, which led the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to no longer recommend the vaccine for infants back in 1999

35 - the number of doses of vaccines most kids get by age five years

5 - the number of vaccine manufacturers in the United States that make multiple vaccines

54 - the number of doses of vaccines most kids get by age eighteen years (but only if they have been getting a yearly flu vaccine)

24 - the maximum number of shots your child might get by age eighteen years if using combination vaccines (like Pediarix, Kinrix, and Proquad, etc.) and the nasal spray flu vaccine

vaccines save 42,000 children's deaths every year in the United States and prevent 20 million cases of disease

13 years - the amount of time between the last case of smallpox in the United States (1949) and the United Kingdom (1962)

most vaccines only have between 3 and 10 ingredients

2 doses of MMR are 97% effective at preventing measles infections

3,217 - the number of different antigens kids got in 3 vaccines in 1960 (DPT, smallpox, and polio)

3,041 - the number of different antigens kids got in 3 vaccines in 1980 (DPT, MMR, and polio)

177 - the number of different antigens kids get in 12 vaccines today (DTaP/Tdap, MMR, polio, Hib, Varicella, Prevnar 13, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, MCV 4, HPV 9, rotavirus, and flu)

only 3 - the number of vaccines on the routine childhood immunization schedule which had ever contained thimerosal - hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib, and even before thimerosal was removed from vaccines, thimerosal-free versions of DTaP and Hib were already available.

over 100 - the number of studies that show no link between vaccines and autism

21 - the number of days you have to stay in home quarantine if you are unvaccinated and are exposed to someone with measles

1 dollar spent on vaccines in the United States saves $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in societal costs

123 - the number of people who died during the measles outbreaks between 1989 to 1991 in the United States

0 - the number of vaccines that are made with peanut oil (Adjuvant 65)

5 - the number of vaccine-preventable diseases that have been eliminated in the United States - smallpox, polio, diphtheria, rubella, and measles

Anti-Vaccine Math

It is easy to look at an immunization schedule to see the number of doses of vaccines that kids will get by two years, five years, and by the time they complete the immunization schedule.

So how do anti-vaccine folks get such inflated counts for vaccine doses?

For example, it is not uncommon to see them say that kids might get 69 doses of vaccines today when they used to get just 11 in 1983 or 20 in 2000.

How does the count jump so high so quickly?

It’s easy when you can make 1=3.

A big part of the reason is that using anti-vaccine math, you count some vaccine components more than once, so the MMR vaccine counts as 3 vaccine doses. So does the DTaP.

But anti-vaccine folks typically use real math when looking at the past immunization schedules, so in 2000, 5 doses of DTP, 4 doses of IPV, 2 doses of MMR, 3 doses hepatitis B, varicella and a Td don’t add up to 35 (like it would using anti-vaccine math), it is just 20.

And they throw in the yearly flu vaccine, which although recommended, aren’t typically required to attend daycare or school. Adding in 19 doses of yearly flu vaccine is certainly a good way to inflate the count of vaccine doses kids get and a good way to scare vaccine-hesitant parents.

The other way anti-vaccine folks do math wrong is when they try and figure out the risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease during an outbreak. Dr. Jay Gordon is particularly bad at this type of math, even though he has been corrected on numerous occasions. The anti-vax math way of doing this type of epidemiological calculation is to take the number of unvaccinated people with measles, for example, and divide that by the total population of the state or country that they live in.

While that will get you a nice low number that will help you to feel good about your decision to not get vaccinated, it is the wrong way to do that kind of calculation. Instead, epidemiologists would divide the number of cases by the number of unvaccinated or people at risk for the infection.

Get Educated. Get Vaccinated. Stop the Outbreaks.


Zhou F. Economic Evaluation of the Routine Childhood Immunization Program in the United States, 2009. Pediatrics. March 2014.

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