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Immunization and vaccination statistics 2021

What are vaccinations? | Vaccination statistics worldwide | Childhood vaccination statistics | Vaccination statistics by disease | Vaccination side effects  | Anti-vaccination statistics | Herd immunization statistics | Vaccination costs | FAQ | Research

Vaccines can help keep you from getting sick because they prevent serious, life-threatening diseases. However, vaccination has become quite controversial recently regarding the side effects and risks of vaccines. Let’s look at some vaccine statistics and facts to better understand what they are and why they’re important.

What are vaccinations?

A vaccine is a biological preparation that stimulates the immune system into producing antibodies, which help kill diseases. A vaccine often contains part of the disease it’s trying to prevent. It may have weakened or killed forms of a microbe, one of its toxins, or even one of its surface proteins. Putting an inactive part of the disease into the body teaches the immune system to recognize it and kill it upon future exposures.

Types of vaccines

There are four different types of vaccines: 

  • Attenuated vaccines contain a weakened form of the germ-causing disease. They provide a long-lasting immune response but aren’t the best choice for people with compromised immune systems.  
  • Inactivated vaccines contain the germ’s “killed form” that causes the disease they’re trying to prevent. They don’t provide immune protection that’s as strong as attenuated vaccines, so several doses may be required over time.  
  • Toxoid vaccines contain toxins that are made by the virus or bacteria that cause the disease. They create immunity to the specific parts of the virus or bacteria that cause disease, not the disease itself. 
  • Conjugate vaccines contain only particular parts of the germ that causes a disease, like a protein or sugar. Conjugate vaccines are safe even for people with compromised immune systems.  

Vaccinations vs. immunizations

Vaccines sometimes get confused with immunizations. Immunization is what happens to the body after administering a vaccine. It’s the process of the body becoming immune to whichever disease the vaccination was for. For example, a rotavirus vaccine would give someone immunity to rotavirus infection.   

Vaccination statistics

  • Flu vaccinations reduce the risk of flu illness by up to 40%-60%. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020) 
  • Immunizations currently prevent 2 to 3 million deaths every year around the world from vaccine-preventable diseases. (WHO, 2019) 
  • Measles vaccines have prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths globally between 2000 and 2017 and have prevented measles outbreaks. (UNICEF, 2019)
  • 86% of 1-year-olds around the world have immunization coverage against measles. (Statista, 2019)
  • About 86% of children worldwide receive vaccination coverage from tetanus, pertussis, and diphtheria (DTP) every year. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2020)

Childhood vaccination statistics  

  • 91% of children aged 19-35 months received an MMR vaccine in the U.S.
  • More than 90% of children aged 19-35 months received at least three doses of the poliovirus vaccine.
  • 70% of children aged 19-35 months received a complete seven-vaccine series (a subset of all recommended vaccinations for this age group) in the U.S.
  • 95% of kindergarteners received state-required administrations of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccines for the 2018 school year. 

(CDC, 2017-2019)

Every year the CDC updates its recommended vaccination schedule for children and adolescents, making sure to include new vaccines as they come out. The vaccination schedule explains what vaccines children should get based on their age group, making it easier for parents to schedule vaccination appointments for their children. There is also a recommended vaccine schedule for adults.

RELATED: Vaccinations to consider once you turn 50

Vaccination statistics by disease

  • Flu: 62% of children and 45% of adults received the flu vaccine during the 2018-2019 flu season. (CDC, 2019)
  • Pneumococcal: 69% of adults older than 65 reported ever receiving a pneumococcal vaccination in 2018. (Statista, 2018)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): Nearly 49% of adolescents aged 13-17 received the HPV vaccination series in 2017 to help protect them from cancers related to this viral infection. (CDC, 2018)  
  • Chickenpox: 91% of children aged 19-35 months had received the recommended chickenpox (varicella) vaccine for this age group in 2018. (CDC, 2018)
  • Polio: 92% of children aged 19-35 months had received a polio vaccine series (defined as a minimum of 3 of total 4 vaccinations) in 2018. (CDC, 2018)

If you’re thinking about traveling outside of the U.S., you may want to consider seeing a healthcare professional to get vaccinated. The four most recommended immunizations for traveling are yellow fever, measles, hepatitis A, and typhoid vaccines.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the meningitis B vaccine

Vaccination side effects

Vaccinations can improve a person’s overall health and quality of life by preventing disease. Vaccines work well, but they aren’t perfect and can sometimes cause side effects. The most common side effects of vaccines include soreness at the injection site and low-grade fevers.  

  • Trace amounts of allergens may be present in vaccines, but serious allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, as minimal as one in a million doses administered of DTaP and less than one in a million doses administered of MMR. (American Family Physician, 2017)
  • For varicella (chickenpox) and zoster (shingles) vaccines, local injection site reactions occur in 19% of vaccinated children and 24% of vaccinated adolescents and adults. (American Family Physician, 2017)
  • 1 of 30 children experiences swelling of the upper thigh or arm after the fourth or fifth dose of the DTaP vaccine. (American Family Physician, 2017) 
  • The risk of intussusception (intestinal obstruction) is 1 in 100,000 doses administered of rotavirus vaccines. (American Family Physician, 2017)

“Many vaccines can cause local temporary reactions such as redness, pain, rash, fever, and swelling,” says Leah Durant, a vaccine attorney and principal of the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC. “Vaccine reactions can be very severe and can cause anaphylaxis, weakness, tingling, numbness, nerve pain, seizures, brain damage, hearing loss, fainting, excruciating pain at the injection site, loss in a range of motion in an arm, and even death. Anyone who experiences a severe reaction beyond a local reaction should seek immediate medical care. In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment can help minimize the severity of a serious vaccine injury.”

“Serious and long-lasting vaccine reactions are rare,” says Durant. “It is estimated that approximately one to two individuals out of 1 million suffer serious and enduring injuries as a result of vaccines. One of the more common vaccine reactions is a condition called shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (or SIRVA). This injury can manifest in conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, frozen shoulder, or rotator cuff tears, and may require painful surgeries, physical therapy, or other treatments to correct.”

Anti-vaccination statistics

In 1998, a British doctor published falsified information linking the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) and a subsequent diagnosis of autism. Although the findings have since been determined to be fraudulent and the publication was retracted, it changed the public’s opinion of vaccinations and led many to believe that vaccines cause autism. Vaccination rates dropped, and many still believe that vaccines are linked to autism or health problems.

  • One survey found that nearly half (45%) of Americans doubt vaccine safety. (American Osteopathic Association, 2019)
  • The most common sources of doubt in vaccine safety are reportedly online articles, distrust for the pharmaceutical industry, and information from medical experts. (American Osteopathic Association, 2019)
  • 27 of 50 states reported a drop in vaccinated kindergarteners between 2009 and 2018. (Health Testing Centers)
  • Only 57.3% of girls and 34.6% of boys received the HPV vaccine in 2013, which was partly attributed to parental concerns that vaccination encouraged unprotected sex at a younger age. (CDC, 2014)
  • As of March 2020, 35% of survey respondents said they did not want to get a coronavirus vaccine if and when one is available. (SingleCare, 2020)

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the greatest threats to global and public health. Many organizations work to address vaccination concerns and educate people about their importance.

RELATED: Coronavirus vaccine clinical trials to begin in U.S.

Herd immunization statistics

Herd immunity has become a buzzword amid the coronavirus pandemic. When a high percentage of the population is immune to an infectious disease, whether from active infection or vaccination, the community (or herd) is better protected. Active infection of these vaccine-preventable diseases are generally associated with worse outcomes than the vaccination itself, so vaccination to obtain herd immunity is preferred.

When people do not get vaccinated and immunization rates drop, it increases the risk of an outbreak. In 2019, the CDC reported 704 new measles cases in New York, the highest number of cases since 1994, due to pockets of communities with poor vaccination adherence and exposure in one way or another to the infectious disease.

Each infectious disease requires the population immunity outlined below, preferably by vaccination coverage when available, to create herd immunity:

  • Measles: 92%-95%
  • Pertussis (whooping cough): 92%-94%
  • Diphtheria: 83%-86%
  • Rubella: 83%-86%
  • Smallpox: 80%-86% 
  • Polio: 80%-86%
  • Mumps: 75%-86%
  • SARS*: 50%-80%
  • Ebola: 33%-60%
  • Influenza (flu): 33%-44%

(Our World in Data, 2019)

* SARS and COVID-19 are caused by different coronaviruses. Learn more here.

The cost of vaccinations 

  • The U.S. spends almost $27 billion treating diseases that could have been prevented by vaccinations. (AJMC, 2019) 
  • Vaccinations for children will save approximately $295 billion in costs, including hospitalizations and medical care, over 20 years. (CDC, 2014)  
  • Complete childhood vaccination costs about $18 per child in low-income countries. (UNICEF, 2019) 
  • For every $1 invested in unvaccinated children in low and middle-income countries, there’s an estimated return of investment of about $44. (UNICEF, 2019) 

RELATED: What vaccines can I get discounts on?

Vaccination questions and answers

What percentage of people get the flu without vaccination?

According to the CDC, the flu causes between 9 and 42 million illnesses every year in the United States. Flu vaccinations reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40% to 60%.  

How does vaccination protect from infectious disease?

Vaccination protects from infectious disease by helping the immune system recognize and fight against viruses and bacteria that cause the disease itself. Vaccinations also help prevent national and global infectious disease outbreaks. 

How many people die from vaccinations?

It’s difficult to know precisely how many people have died directly due to vaccinations. Many studies report death rates for vaccines like smallpox to be around one death for every 1 million vaccinated. From 2000 to 2015, 104 deaths were reported and in some way attributed to the measles vaccine. However, the reporting system is unable to establish a confirmed causal relationship between the vaccination and subsequent death. 

Is there statistical evidence that vaccines decrease infection?

There’s a lot of statistical evidence showing how vaccines decrease infection. The WHO, CDC, and UNICEF continuously publish information regarding the effectiveness of vaccines.  

What is the mortality rate of people who have not been vaccinated?

More than 1.5 million people die every year around the world from not being vaccinated. 

Is vaccination safe for children?

Vaccines are safe for children and can keep them from getting diseases like whooping cough. 

Do vaccinations cause autism in children?

“The link between autism and vaccines has been studied at length and found to be non-existent,” says Leann Poston, MD, the assistant dean at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and a contributor for Ikon Health. “The prime age for speech development and the peak of vaccines on the vaccination schedule both occur at 12 to 15 months. The cause of autism seems to be multifactorial, meaning there are both genetic and environmental factors that may affect risk. For this reason, people have been looking for associations between environmental triggers and autism.”  

Vaccination research