Why You Should Vaccinate Your Kids

There’s no better way to stir the parenting-debate pot than to put a pro-vaccine mom in a room with a non-vaccinating mom and bring up the topic of vaccines. Moms on each side of the debate tend to feel passionately about their stance. At this point, science sides with vaccinating. Read on to find out why, to learn about "herd immunity" and to understand the lack of scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism.

Vaccine

"Vaccines are our best line of defense against a lot of diseases," says Dr. Adam Ruben, author, lecturer and biologist. "We take for granted not having a lot of diseases, so when [some parents] hear of the very small risks and choose not to vaccinate, they forget what the world was like when people were getting sick from these diseases"—and dying of them.

'Herd immunity'

Why, then, can children of parents who don't believe in vaccinating skate though childhood with no major vaccine-preventable illnesses? The answer is simple: herd immunity. "Herd immunity is a means of protecting unvaccinated people by vaccinating everyone around them. The idea is in order to wipe out a disease, you don't have to vaccinate 100 percent of the population, just a very large percentage," explains Dr. Ruben.

He notes that under ideal circumstances, the proper percentage of people would be vaccinated and only those who were susceptible, such as individuals with compromised immune systems, would remained unvaccinated. The problem, however, is that some parents of children who are healthy enough to be vaccinated are choosing not to vaccinate their children. "Therefore," Dr. Ruben says, "they're stealing the herd immunity, the benefit of not vaccinating, from those who need it."

eradication vs elimination

Dr. Ruben explains that a disease is eradicated when it is no longer in existence on a global level. The only human disease that has been eradicated through vaccination is smallpox. A disease is eliminated when it is no longer present in a particular place. This is why failing to vaccinate our children is so dangerous: Diseases that have been eliminated in our country — or parts of it — through vaccination can recur — and spread.

With the increase in global travel, vaccinating is all the more important. Diseases that have been mostly eliminated can spread rapidly when re-introduced. Dr. Ruben notes the case of the 11-year-old boy who returned from a trip to Britain where there had been an epidemic of mumps, and the disease spread to more than 1,500 people in the local community. In a New York Times article, Dr. Jane Zucker, the city's assistant health commissioner for vaccines said that the outbreak would have been much worse had fewer people been vaccinated.

Vaccines aren't all or nothing

Dr. Ruben says that we need to remember that vaccines aren't all or nothing. People sometimes point to cases when vaccines failed as a reason not to vaccinate. However, nobody is claiming that vaccines are 100 percent effective. Sure, some people who are vaccinated will still contract a disease. However, that does not mean that it is not effective in other people – a lot of other people.

Regarding the outbreak of mumps, most people infected were vaccinated, so that means that the vaccine probably wasn't effective for those who caught mumps. However, as Dr. Zucker noted in the Times article, "This is a well-vaccinated community. If it wasn't … we would be seeing many, many more cases."

Vaccines and autism

No major scientific study has found a link between autism and vaccines. People who assert there is a connection rely on anecdotal evidence. Dr. Ruben notes that the only study that ever found a link was subsequently retracted by the journal that published it, The Lancet. The anti-vaccine movement has a popular and loud voice, echoed by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, and nobody can deny the heartache and need for answers that parents with children who have been diagnosed with autism go through. However, in the complete absence of any link ?– despite attempts to show one – not vaccinating our children is not the answer.

Adverse reactions from vaccines

Just as vaccines are not 100 percent effective, it is a fact that vaccinated individuals can also experience adverse reactions. The Centers for Disease Control notes that "vaccination can cause both minor and, rarely, serious side effects." However, "vaccination is safer than accepting the risks for the diseases these vaccines prevent."

That's the bottom line. My generation of moms is very fortunate to live in a world where we don't have to think about our children becoming disabled by polio or dying of measles, but we should be mindful of the reason: vaccines.

Read more about vaccines:

I'm not a doctor and I'm not dispensing medical advice. This is simply my opinion, as a parent, about vaccinating my kids an opinion that I formed as a result of a lot of research. How do you feel about vaccinating your children? Weigh in below in the comments section and share your thoughts.

Tags: autism and vaccines herd immunity vaccinating children vaccine debate

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Comments

Comments on "The great vaccine debate"

Adrian Norton December 13, 2011 | 5:32 PM

Any news about A defector's mysterious disappearance?

AQUA November 01, 2010 | 8:24 PM

I THINK WHEN THE SCIENCE IS SO ADVANCE THAT WE HAVE GONE TO THE MOON. WE STILL ARE ANCIENT IN OUR THOUGHTS. I AM NOT AGAINST VACCINATING KIDS BUT ABOUT THE WAY WE DO IT. COME ON HAVE A HEART . A CHILD CANNOT STAND FOR HIMSELF. DO NOT TORTURE HIM AND HIS MOTHER BRUTAALY AT EVERY VISIT. HOW CAN U GUYS EVEN SLEEP IN THE NIGHT . DOEST IT HAUNT YOUR SOUL. FIVE SHOTS AT ONE TIME. THEN WHY PAIN KILLERS FOR ADULTS. WE R THE WORST BRUTAL ANIMAL IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. COME ON GUYS FIND A BETTER WAY OUT.

Ally October 26, 2010 | 11:07 AM

My brother is a doctor, and he says opposing vaccines is like opposing car seats. It is downright dangerous and irresponsible. The autism/vaccine "link" is NON-EXISTENT. There is ZERO proof of it. And lots of studies disproving it. If you don't get your child vaccinated, you are leaving them vulnerable to deadly diseases. Don't think those diseases are gone- they aren't. Babies are still dying from them.

Terri October 22, 2010 | 1:05 PM

Amber - do you know why those diseases are so rare nowadays??? It's because people vaccinate. I understand people may have their own very valid reasons not to vaccinate, but just because you feel like the diseases aren't around is not a good reason. If everyone felt like you, they absolutely would be around and they would be taking our children. I pray no one's child (or parent) has to go through dealing with a deadly disease, and I'll vaccinate to ensure my children aren't at risk.

brittney October 22, 2010 | 12:27 PM

Not vaccinating your child doesn't "put everyone around them at risk". If you want your child vaccinated go for it, but there's no reason to criticize those who make different choices. We do some vaxes, but skip others. I can see both sides of the debate. Do what you think is best for your child and allow others to do the same.

Julie October 22, 2010 | 11:56 AM

How about when the child is starting school? Don't school request that each child attending have proper immunization?

Isabel October 22, 2010 | 11:55 AM

Anouk - Way to go for keeping you stance against your sister and her bad judgment of not vaccinating her child. If there is no medical reason NOT to vaccinate, I think everyone should do it.

Anouk October 22, 2010 | 11:53 AM

I'm choosing to vaccinate my child and myself in order to protect her. We travel a lot and I would not want her to catch something that could have been prevented. My sister is choosing not to vaccinate her child and when my daughter was a newborn I did NOT allowed him around...NO WAY. I find the decision to not vaccinate your child selfish to say the least. She is putting everyone around him in danger.

skategrl10 October 22, 2010 | 11:24 AM

Wow, Yolanda. Have you ever thought about the diseases you could be subjecting your "future children" to w/o vaccines? Seems like a bigger risk to me.

Yolanda October 22, 2010 | 11:22 AM

I think it's easy for those who do not have an autistic child to dismiss the vaccine debate. I, for one, have an autistic child and would not subject any of my future children to something that could even POSSIBLY result in this kind of life for them.

LisaG October 22, 2010 | 11:14 AM

One thing's for sure - historically speaking, we saw a serious rise in the life expectancy of human beings after vaccines were invented. Without scientific proof that vaccines can cause autism, parents should have no reason not to vaccinate. Sorry, Amber, I disagree with you. And I feel sorry for your child.

Brooke October 22, 2010 | 11:06 AM

The whole vaccines & autism argument really gets me -- if there's no definitive link, why are we using that as a reason NOT to vaccinate?

Carrie October 22, 2010 | 11:02 AM

I can't believe you'd say that Amber! I think that's totally irresponsible. You're opening up the possibility of lowering everyone's immunity be doing that.

Amber October 22, 2010 | 10:57 AM

I would NEVER vaccinate my child. There are too many unknowns! Besides, those diseases are so much more rare nowadays!

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