The Truther Girls 
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The dtap shot: risks vs. benefits

Part 1: Actual Risk of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis


At the turn of the 20h century, diphtheria was a relatively common illness which claimed the lives of thousands every year. Diphtheria is a very serious disease, but it is most notably linked to poverty, overcrowding, poor nutrition and poor sanitation. Improvements in these areas had already radically decreased the incidence of diphtheria by the time the vaccine was introduced in the 1920’s, and further improvements in the North American population’s standard of living continue to play a large part in the virtual elimination of this disease.

From 1980 to 2005, there were 55 cases of diphtheria in the US, including 12 cases in children <15, amounting to an average of about 2 cases per year. This extremely low incidence occurred despite the fact that, according to the CDC, about 50% of the adult population (over 100 million people age 18-64) and about 3 400 000 American children under 15 are not considered immune. The CDC also states that all culture-confirmed cases since 1988 have been imported. The last death of a child from diphtheria in the US occurred in 1994. As far as diseases go, diphtheria is about as rare as it gets.


Tetanus is also a rare disease and has more to do with wound hygiene than anything else. There are about 55 cases of tetanus in the US per year, which is extremely low considering that, according to the CDC, about 50% of adults and 3 400 000 children <15 are not considered immune .  About 10% of tetanus cases occur in people who are considered fully vaccinated.

Tetanus spores are found in animal excrement and proliferate in warm, moist soil. They are anaerobic bacteria, which means they cannot survive on contact with the air. To get tetanus, you need a deep puncture or a chronic wound that gets infected with tetanus spores, and this can only happen if the wound is not cleaned and particularly if it is bandaged in such a way as to keep out all air. If you are running barefoot on a farm, step on a nail and don’t clean the wound properly or get any medical attention, you might well come down with tetanus and this was exactly how a 10-year-old boy got it in 2007.

As a rule, children under 3 don’t get tetanus, not including neonatal cases. In the US, there was not one case in a child in this age group from 1992-2005, despite the fact that millions of children are not considered immunized (vaccination coverage at 7 months is about 70%, 90% at 13 months).  There have been rare cases of tetanus in young children over 3, but they invariably involve the classic risk factors.  Of the cases of tetanus in children <15 from 1992 onward, 20% were in vaccinated children and none were fatal.  Of the two cases of neonatal tetanus during this period, one occurred in a baby born to a vaccinated mother. The case that occurred in a baby born to an unvaccinated mother included risk factors: the child’s umbilical cord was treated with bentonite clay at home and clay applied to the umbilical cord is a classic mode of transmission for this disease, as evidenced by high rates of neonatal tetanus in countries where application of clay is common.


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is not a rare disease and occurs in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adults. There is a possibility that your child will get whooping cough. The question is: how serious whooping cough is and how well does the vaccine protect against this disease?

Deaths from pertussis had already declined by 90% before the introduction of the vaccine. The decrease in deaths remained constant even during 1970's and 1980's, when vaccine coverage fell to as low as 40% in 1976. There was no rise in deaths in 1978 and 1982 even though there were 65 000 cases of pertussis reported in those years.
For more info and graphs see VRAN's website

The CDC states:
Estimates of childhood vaccination coverage with >3 doses of pertussis-containing vaccine have exceeded 90% since 1994; however, reported pertussis cases increased from a historic low of 1,010 in 1976 to 11,647 cases in 2003.

In summary, we had 10 times as many reported cases of pertussis in 2003, when vaccine coverage was at >90% as we had in 1976, when vaccine coverage was at 40%. How odd.


There were about 17,000 pertussis hospitalizations in children under 2 years of age during the 5-year period 1999-2003, compared with about 13,800 hospitalizations in 1994-98. The hospitalization rate increased by 23% from 1994-98 to 1999-2003.

Figure 1. Pertussis Hospitalization Rate Among Children Under age 2 Years: United States, 1994-98 and 1999-2003

Among all pertussis hospitalizations during 1994-2003 in children under age 2 years, 92% occurred in infants under 6 months of age. This suggests that children too young to receive immunization or to have developed adequate protection from immunization are most likely to be hospitalized for pertussis.

Figure and text from NCHS

Deaths from Pertussis

Deaths per year from pertussis during each time period







(~97% <6mos)

(all <6mos)

1-4 yrs


0.2/year   (1/5 yrs)

0.33/year   (1/3 yrs)

Pertussis: Age Distribution: Deaths 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000-2005

Age Group



2000-5 (%)


61 (76)

93 (90)

131 (94)

1-4 yrs

13 (16)

2 (2)


5-9 yrs


6 (6)


10-18 yrs


0 (0)

2 (1)

>18 yrs

1 (1)

2 (2)

4 (3)


77* (100)

103 (100)

140 (100)


*Includes 1 case with unknown age; Vlek Cr et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2003; 22(7):628-34
** I don't know how 0 cases accounted for 2% of deaths.
See original data here

Trends in Pertussis and Pertussis-related Deaths in Infants and Children

According to the 41st Annual NIC report above: 

"Deaths in 2000-2005: All of the 131 infant fatalities were <6 months of age. Almost ½ were in infants <28 days of age

There was a significant rise in the proportion of deaths that were among infants from the 1980s from 76% to 90% and this continued in the 2000s.

The lower number of pertussis-related deaths among children 1-4 years in the 1990s and 2000s may be related to improving childhood immunization coverage."

See original study here

The NIC concludes that the reduced deaths in children 1-4 are due to vaccination, but the statistics discussed earlier dispute this. It appears that the death risk from pertussis is almost exclusively to very young infants, who are too young to be immunized anyway, and that by the time they are old enough to receive the vaccines, the disease poses much less of a risk to them.

Just for comparison, look at the death rate from SIDS in the US during these periods

1980-1989: 1.42/1000 births    ~6450 deaths/year

1990-1999: 0.91/1000 births    ~4100 deaths/year

2000-2004: 0.55/ 1000 births   ~2500 deaths/year

The risk is hundreds of times higher that a baby will die of SIDS than of pertussis. Breastfeeding has been shown(among its many benefits) to decrease the risk of SIDS by 1/3 and yet in 2003 only 62.5% of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding their babies 7 days postpartum and at 6 months the number drops to 14%, with only 36.2% giving any breast milk at all at 6 months. Conversely, 60% of 7 month olds and 90% of 1-year-olds have received three shots of DTaP against diseases that pose to them an infinitesimal risk of death. Where is the logic in this?

For more on SIDS and breastfeeding, see:

Overall Risks pf DTaP vs. Risks of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis

I think we have established fairly clearly that the risk of death in a child from tetanus or diphtheria is extremely remote and that the risk of death from pertussis is to infants under 6 months and has nothing to do with neglecting vaccinations.

But why take any risk with these disease when vaccinations against them are available? You have to consider the risks of the vaccinations themselves. As you will see, they are more than theoretical.

Part 2: DTaP and SIDS: Is there a link?

Part 3: DTaP vaccine reactions and ecephalitis

Disclaimer: The material on this website is for information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor regarding any concerns you have about your or your child's health before making any decisions regarding vaccinations or other medical procedures.


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