Why are there so many vaccines?
Currently, the U.S. childhood vaccination schedule for children between birth and six years of age recommends immunizations for 14 different diseases. Some parents worry that this number seems high, particularly since some of the diseases being vaccinated against are now extremely rare in the United States.
Each disease for which vaccinations are recommended, however, can causes serious illness or death in unvaccinated populations, and might quickly begin to appear again if vaccination rates dropped. The United States has seen mumps outbreaks in recent years since vaccination rates have dropped, with severe complications and hospitalizations required for some patients. And before the introduction of the Hib (Haemophilus Influenzae Type b) vaccine, Hib meningitis affected more than 12,000 American children annually, killing 600 and leaving many others with seizures, deafness, and developmental disabilities. After introduction of the vaccine, the number of deaths from Hib dropped to fewer than 10 per year.
Each vaccine on the schedule continues to be recommended because of the risks posed by wild infection.