Click here to read about the history of “antivaccinationists”
The leading causes of death in 1990 were
ischaemic heart disease (6·3 million deaths), cerebrovascular accidents (4·4 million deaths), lower respiratory infections (4·3 million), diarrhoeal diseases (2·9 million), perinatal disorders (2·4 million), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2·2 million), tuberculosis (2·0 million), measles (1·1 million), road-traffic accidents (1·0 million), and lung cancer (0·9 million). Source: Lancet, 1997: Mortality by cause for eight regions of the world: Global Burden of Disease Study (.pdf)
If you are interested in this topic, you will find a much more comprehensive referenced discussion in the 2013 book, Dissolving Illusions by Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk.
Perhaps the most complete analysis of the contribution of medical intervention (including vaccines for smallpox, polio, measles, whooping cough and Diptheria) on death rates from the 1900’s -1973 can be found in “The Questionable Contribution of Medical Measures to the Decline of Mortality in the Twentieth Century.” John B. McKinley and Sonja M. McKinley write:
In general, medical measures (both chemotherapeutic and prophylactic) appear to have contributed little to the overall decline in mortality in the United States since about 1900-having in many instances been introduced several decade after a a marked decline had already set in and having no detectable influence in most instances. More specifically with reference to those five conditions (influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough and poliomyelitis) for which the decline in mortality appears substantial after the point of intervention – and on the unlikely assumption that all of this decline is attributable to the intervention… it is estimated that at most 3.5 percent of the total decline in mortality since 1900 could be ascribed to medical measures introduced for the disease considered here.
Some of the figures from The Questionable Contribution of Medical Measures to the Decline of Mortality in the Twentieth Century are here:
Another excellent reference on historical death rates can be found in JAMA, 1999: Trends in Infectious Disease Mortality in the United States During the 20th Century. In this article, the authors explain that, “Deaths due to typhoid fever and, to a lesser degree, dysentery, dropped markedly during the first half of the century; by 1950, mortality from these 2 diseases was less than 1 death per 100,000 persons per year (Figure 4, B). Deaths due to diphtheria, pertussis, and measles showed similar trends: there were large decreases during the first half of the century to low levels by 1950 (Figure 4, C).”
Further reading can also be found at Prevent Disease, “Vaccines Did Not Save Us! Two Centuries of Official Statistics” and graphs can be found at: