A few simple infographics from the Wall Street Journal paint a striking picture of the effectiveness of vaccines and herd immunity to fight the spread of deadly diseases. To sum it up: vaccines are incredibly effective.
Heat maps show the incidences of diseases like rubella or measles among 100,000 people in each state over most of the last century. The color of the square in each state represents the number of cases of the disease that year. Mousing over these squares will show you the exact number of cases per 100,000 people which occurred in that state in that year. A black line is drawn through the year when a vaccine was introduced, and in every chart, incidences of the disease trail off dramatically after the introduction a vaccine.
Some diseases, like smallpox, took longer to conquer than others. (The first smallpox vaccinations began around 1800.) After aggressive vaccination campaigns, smallpox was finally eradicated from the world in 1980. The chart for Polio, which had become an epidemic in mid-century America, shows a much steeper drop off after the introduction of the vaccine in 1955.
Also visible in these infographics is the emergence of herd immunity, created by the mass vaccination, which grows over the years after the vaccines were introduced, making it increasingly difficult for diseases to spread. It’s an incredibly effective visualization of vital information, but, unfortunately, it’s unlikely to sway hardcore anti-vaxxers.