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A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars

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Publicizing a life-saving technology.

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine became available, each year approximately 3 to 4 million cases, and an average of 450 deaths, were reported in the US. Thanks to the success of vaccination campaigns—publicized with a wealth of quirky promotional materials (above)—measles is no longer endemic in the US, though it is widespread in other countries. Last year, the US saw the largest outbreak of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000; public health officials traced the majority of cases to unvaccinated Americans who imported the disease from Europe. Despite the availability of a safe, cost-effective vaccine, measles remains a leading cause of death among young children worldwide. Vaccination efforts resulted in a 74% global reduction in measles deaths between 2000 and 2007, according to the World Health Organization, yet 197,000 children died in 2007—that's nearly 540 a day.

Figure 2

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000114.g002