Scrolling through social media comments below a vaccine-related post often yields a number of anecdotal stories about someone’s child or relative who suffered a vaccine injury — a risk anti-vaxxers also point to as one reason to avoid immunizations.
But according to The New York Times, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that vaccine injury is extraordinarily less common than injury from the diseases immunizations prevent.
As the country is in the grip of its worst measles outbreak in decades, the Times notes that “The likelihood of serious harm if a person contracts measles is much greater than the chance of being injured from the measles vaccine, data shows.”
The CDC says about one in four people who contract measles will likely be hospitalized, and one or two of every 1,000 who contract it will die.
But the data from the CDC’s National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program show far fewer people will have an adverse reaction to the measles vaccine: per the Times, “claims of harm have been filed for about two out of every million doses of the measles vaccine.”
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, established by federal law in 1988 as a way to track and compensate claims of vaccine injury, has compensated about 6,600 people over the past 30 years — and that is out of billions of doses of vaccines.
Further, the Times noted that about 70 percent of those compensated claims involved “cases in which program officials did not find sufficient evidence that vaccines were at fault.”
“Vaccine injuries are rare,” Renée Gentry, a veteran vaccine injury lawyer who has helped clients file such claims for almost 18 years, told the Times.
But she also acknowledged that “they are pharmaceuticals and people can react to them — you can have a bad reaction to aspirin. They’re not magic.”
To date, the program has paid out $4.15 million to claimants, with about 520 over the past 30 years involving a patient’s death. The Times reported that nearly half of those deaths were tied to a previous whooping cough vaccine that has not been used now for 20 years.
In that same time frame, the CDC estimates “that vaccines prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children.”