This Is How Vaccination Prevents Disease and Why That Should Matter to You

If you were born in the last 70 years, you probably take your ability to avoid dying from diphtheria for granted—if you’ve even heard of it. The bacterial infection creates a poison that can cause a thick membrane to develop in the nose, throat and airway, making it difficult to breathe and swallow. In 1921, before there was a vaccine, it killed more than 15,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2004 to 2014, only two cases of diphtheria were reported to the CDC, thanks to widespread vaccination, which became routine in 1940.

“I think vaccines are one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine,” says Sean Murphy, M.D., Ph.D., assistant director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at University of Washington Medical Center and assistant professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at UW. He is currently working on developing a vaccine for malaria.

Without vaccines, the World Health Organization estimates that there would have been 5 million more deaths each year between 2010 and 2015. But how do they work? And are they really still important in the U.S. today?

Read the Right as Rain by UW Medicine article

Right as RainKristen Domonell