Courtesy of ProCon.org
Vaccines can save children’s lives and mandatory vacicnations protect the community at-large. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “most childhood vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective in preventing disease.” According to Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation partner organization, vaccines save 2.5 million children from preventable diseases every year, which equates to roughly 285 children saved every hour. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that 732,000 American children were saved from death and 322 million cases of childhood illnesses were prevented between 1994 and 2014 due to vaccination. The measles vaccine has decreased childhood deaths from measles by 74 percent.
The ingredients in vaccines are safe in the amounts used. Ingredients, such as thimerosal, formaldehyde, and aluminum, can be harmful in large doses but they are not used in harmful quantities in vaccines. Children are exposed to more aluminum in breast milk and infant formula than they are exposed to in vaccines. Paul Offit, MD, said that children are exposed to more bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful substances in one day of normal activity than are in vaccines. With the exception of inactivated flu vaccines, thimerosal — a mercury compound — has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in vaccines for children under 6 years old.
Major medical organizations state that vaccines are safe. These organizations include the CDC, Food and Drug Administration, Institute of Medicine, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, UNICEF, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and American Academy of Family Physicians.
Adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. The most common side effect of vaccines, anaphylaxis — a severe allergic reaction — occurs in one per several hundred thousand to one per million vaccinations. According to Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN and practicing neurosurgeon, “you are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles.”
Vaccines protect the “herd.” Herd immunity — or community immunity — means that when a critical portion — the percent of people who need to be vaccinated to provide herd immunity — of a population is vaccinated against a contagious disease it is unlikely that an outbreak of the disease will occur so most members of the community will be protected. Children and adults who cannot be vaccinated due to age, poor health or other reasons rely on herd immunity to prevent contraction of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines save children and parents time and money. Vaccines cost less in time and money to obtain than infectious diseases cost in time off of work to care for a sick child, potential long-term disability care, and medical costs. For example, children under five with the flu are contagious for about eight days, and, according to a 2012 CDC study, cost their parents an average of 11 to 73 hours of wages and $300 to $4,000 in medical expenses. Children with rotavirus are contagious for up to 30 days.
Vaccines protect future generations. Vaccinated mothers protect their unborn children from viruses that could potentially cause birth defects, and vaccinated communities can help eradicate diseases for future generations. Before the rubella vaccine was licensed in 1969, a global rubella outbreak caused the deaths of 11,000 babies, and birth defects in 20,000 babies between 1963 and 1965 in the United States. Women who were vaccinated as children against rubella have greatly decreased the chance of passing the virus to their unborn or newborn children, eliminating the birth defects, such as heart problems, hearing and vision loss, congenital cataracts, liver and spleen damage, and mental disabilities, associated with the disease.
Vaccines eradicated smallpox and have nearly eradicated other diseases such as polio. Children are no longer vaccinated against smallpox because the disease no longer exists due to vaccination. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1948; the last case in the world was 1977 in Somalia. In the twentieth century, there were 16,316 deaths from polio and 29,004 deaths from smallpox yearly in the United States; in 2012 there were no reported cases of polio or smallpox.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have not disappeared so vaccination is still necessary. According to the CDC, many vaccine-preventable diseases are still in the United States or “only a plane ride away.” Although the paralytic form of polio has largely disappeared thanks to vaccination, the virus still exists in countries like Pakistan where there were 93 cases in 2013 and 71 in 2014 as of May 15.
Vaccines provide economic benefits for society. The CDC estimates that children vaccinated between 1994 and 2014 have yielded net savings of $1.38 trillion in “societal costs,” including money saved by preventing lost productivity due to disability and early death. The United States saves about $27 per $1 invested in DTaP vaccination, and $13 per $1 spent on MMR vaccination. UNICEF estimates that $6.2 billion could be saved in treatment costs if vaccines were more prominent in the world’s poorest countries.