From the time vaccines were first developed, there have been people who have been skeptical about them, but they have gained broad acceptance in modern times.
However, in 1998 that acceptance hit a snag when Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet claiming that vaccines were the cause of autism. Although authorities later proved the evidence in Wakefield’s research was fabricated, there is still a large portion of the population who doubt the safety of vaccines. Some maintain the concern about the fabricated link to autism; others worry about their children contracting the diseases they are being vaccinated against.
A common argument against being required to have their children vaccinated that anti-vaccine proponents use is that “if you are so sure that vaccines work, why worry if my child is not vaccinated? You child would not get the disease any way.” This argument discounts the fact that there are still thousands of children who are not vaccinated every year for legitimate medical reasons. Children with medical conditions, such as leukemia, cancer and HIV, or those with an egg allergy, cannot receive the vaccines and are still susceptible to the disease.
Healthy children who do not receive protection against the list of diseases that have vaccines available then put those sick children at risk. Also, infants who may be too young to receive some of the vaccines may still be susceptible to disease your child is carrying because he is not vaccinated, or a disease whose total protection is spread out over multiple shots across the 24-month vaccination schedule may still transfer from your child. Disease is always more serious for infants since their immune systems are still developing and cannot not adequately fight off all infections.
Additionally, your child is not safe from the disease just because you presume everyone else is vaccinated. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), about 90% of children receive the recommended course of shots to protect them against 14 pathogens, which leave 10% unvaccinated. There is also the complication that the same vaccines are not available or used in other countries, and if your children are exposed to the disease from someone carrying it from abroad, they can contract it as well. In fact, according to the CDC 90% of the cases of measles in 2011 were contracted from travel abroad or contact with someone who had contracted the disease as a result of that travel.
The vaccine schedule contains protections against many diseases that in the recent past have caused serious problems and death. Diseases such as polio and diphtheria have become all but non-existent thanks to vaccines. But according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), measles, a disease that had been kept in check for years thanks to the MMR vaccine, is on the rise in the US. In the most current data available, the CDC reported that in 222 people in the US contracted the measles in 2011, up from the median 60 people, an almost four-fold increase and the largest outbreak since 2000 when the disease was declared eliminated, meaning (defined by the CDC as “interruption of year-round endemic measles transmission”). Of those infected, 86% had been unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.