Help me with a vaccination question

So, I unwisely got into a Facebook debate with an anti-vax weirdo. He claims that “there is no evidence that vaccination eradicated smallpox”, which Google suggests is a widely distributed meme among anti-vax types. Trouble is, I can’t prove him wrong; I can find no studies demonstrating that smallpox was eradicated by vaccine rather than “natural immunity” (his claim). Help?

Smallpox was around from sometime before 4000 BC and had been endemic the whole time. In 1723 variolation was introduced in Europe; in 1796 Jenner introduced vaccination for it. Mass production began by 1863. The result as it rolled out and reached herd immunity critical mass was that smallpox went from being endemic across Europe (218K deaths/yr in 1900 in Russia for example, or put another way, 1 to 2 deaths per thousand people a year from smallpox) to being virtually eliminated across Europe by 1953 (less than 100 cases a year). The well-vaccinated countries led the way. In 1967 the WHO intensified its program to utilize the vaccine more across the globes. By 1977 the world saw its last wild infection smallpox death.

Yes, the anti-vaxxers would say that it was just coincidence that a disease that had existed for millenia went from endemic status to worldwide eradication conicidentally with vaccine introduction and successful distibution efforts.

Not sure what they would consider proof.

“No evidence” besides the fact that smallpox was eradicated after vaccination programs, and this “natural immunity” seemed to flourish in countries that had vaccination, and didn’t impact other countries until they also got vaccination programs.

Can he point to any other diseases that have been eradicated as a result of natural immunity? If not, I’m surprised it worked on one of the most dangerous and virulent diseases we’ve ever dealt with.

This natural immunity idea is HIS to prove, not yours. There have been two diseases known to be eradicated, both as a result of extensive vaccination programs.

I don’t want to win the debate with the burden of proof. I want to at least be able to link to something that documents the causative link between eradication and vaccination. He’s a chiropractor friend-of-friend who is trying to sell a lot of the friend’s friends on various woo.

What DSeid said, plus if it were eradicated by “natural immunity” that would mean we are now immune, and we are not. When a case pops up, it spreads rapidly and is only contained with a serious local vaccination effort.

What’s the second one?

Second one was an animal disease called Rinderpest.

I think you’ll have trouble coming up with a documented link between vaccination programs and eradication, because it’s so blooming obvious, and there are no other reasonable causes for the eradication.

You may be able to document the state of vaccination programs in various areas and the frequency of smallpox cases in those areas, before and after the programs.

I warn you, do not think for a moment that a mountain of solid scientific data is going to “win” this argument for your.

Probably the best way to debunk this idea is to plot the number of cases per country vs the start of vaccination programs. If it was truly “natural” there should be no correlation.

Cheesesteak answered this, but here’s the wiki link.

Coincidentally, India may have eradicated polio. They’re announcing it’s been 3 years since the last reported case.

That means one of the nastiest bugs around is pretty close to done (leaving Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria - which not coincidentally involve some of the most troublesome areas for vaccination programs, including military strife and/or religious zealots who believe vaccination is a western plot). I’m not sure about smallpox, but nations that still have endemic cases of polio are well correlated with lack of success of vaccination programs. I guess that’s not a full blown “scientific study”, but there comes a point when you have to ask, “Really?”.

Nothing, for the vast majority of anti-vaxers. You can’t reason your way out of a position you didn’t use reason to get to.

Reason to just not debate that person.

  1. Who is the bigger fool: the fool or the person arguing with a fool?

  2. Never argue with a fool. They have more experience at it.

  3. Arguing with a fool is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It’s frustrating for you and just irritates the pig.

Once that I find out that a person is locked into some idea and won’t change, I just stop debating them.

RedSwinglineOne … no, smallpox is eradicated. You are mixing it up with the almost eliminated but not quite polio (which we still vaccinate for). Smallpox only exists in two tightly guarded labs. (Unless someone else has stolen and stocked away some …) If it was released it would be devastating.

RNTBthis slide show might be what you are looking for. Or this old article full of data on the elimination of smallpox from Europe. Or this more recent one.

Other than that I can’t quite parse what you are looking for. Disease endemic and kills hundreds of thousands for thousands of years. As the vaccine was used the disease went down and was then eliminated. Countries that introduced it first and more led the way. What sort of article are you looking to link to???

We keep getting close with polio but wars and African and Asian anti-vax nutters (a different group than ours) keep getting in the way.

Agreed to just point out the facts and move along.

Here’s a good article(clearly put together for a class, with study questions at the end), that describes the process and how targeted vaccination was used to eliminate smallpox in specific areas where it had not been eradicated.

There’s also the famous New York City vaccination campaign of 1947, in which 5-6 million New Yorkers were vaccinated in a few weeks after three cases of smallpox were identified, halting the spread of the disease.

It should be noted that smallpox affected only homo sapiens. Thus after all people were vaccinated, the disease was naturally eliminated. Some of the viruses are contained in a well-protected lab for the eventuality that the antibodies might again be necessary to be induced in the event of a terrorist attack. Where the terrorists would obtain the viruses is anybody’s guess, but not all nations can be trusted. Unfortunately, a lab technician was infected with the virus after it was eliminated naturally.

Most diseases cannot be eliminated because they have other hosts. Does the polio virus infect only people?

Pretty much, but it can spread via contaminated food/water. It can be eliminated (and has been, for most of the developed world) with sustained vaccination efforts.

Yes Polio is human (and human waste) only. Measeles, Rubella (German measles), Hepatitis B and Yellow Fever too. Each could, theoretically, be eliminated with a human vaccination campaign.

No, I just made the mistake of writing in present tense. Even just a few years before it was eradicated, when introduced to a new population it could spread quickly. The point being that the human species has not developed an immunity to it.

A fun graph showing how well immunization works.

In my career I have seen the virtual elimination of serious pediatric disease (such as meningitis) caused by Hemophilus Influenza type B (Hib) and pneumococcus. Admissions for dehydration from rotavirus diarrhea went from about 7 to 12 a year in our practice to 1 or none a year within one to two years of vaccine introduction. Menigococcal vaccine may help further reduce meningitis deaths, at least among teens and adults. The pneumococcal vaccine has also contributed to decreasing the numbers of ear infections and sinus infections, especially the recurrent peristent ear infections that would go on to tubes … many fewer now. That was more help in the battle against multi-drug resistant superbugs than new antibiotics would have been. Cervical cancer and likely throat cancer rates will be decreasing over the next decade or so as the first vaccinated cohort ages into the cancer age range.

I’ve tracked numbers for my pediatric practice for the last 20 years. Knock wood we are a popular practice and keep attracting more and more patients. Which is a good thing because otherwise we’d be putting ourselves out of business. The numbers are consistent pretty much year on year. We have more patients to take care of (as tracked by the number of well care visits) and fewer sick visits per patient. That is pretty much a direct result of immunizations. Meningitis? The last case I can recall the child turned out to have an immunodeficiency. If I saw a kid with bacterial meningitis from Hib or pneumococcus now I would automatically look for that and expect to find it, assuming they had been vaccinated. The vaccines have worked that well.

If only there was a vaccine against anti-vax woo …

If it is fighting ignorance, well, it IS taking longer than we thought … and I tire of the fight.

He probably believes that “realigning” the vertebrae would cure small pox if it were still around. There is unfortunately no way to argue with someone like this…