Are Vaccines Necessary?

One of the most common questions parents ask is whether any of the vaccines recommended for children today are necessary. After all, humanity survived centuries of warfare with germs and is thriving despite the constant threat of infections. If your ancestors survived their childhood without the help of vaccines, why do your children all of a sudden need to get these foreign chemicals artificially injected into their bodies?

The short answer to the necessity of childhood vaccination is that none of the vaccines are really necessary. If your child never gets exposed to measles, chickenpox, or whooping cough, none of the vaccines would do him any good. Getting children vaccinated would be like preparing to fight an enemy that would never come. The catch is that it is impossible to know whether your child will become the next victim of whooping cough. If you could predict the future, then none of the vaccines would be necessary.

Similarly, car seats are really not necessary. If you and your family never get involved in a car accident, putting your children in car seats or buckling them up in seat belts would be completely unnecessary. In addition, using seat belts and air bags involve their own risks, just like vaccines. Both vaccines and seat belts are preventative measures that are designed to protect in case of an untoward event. If the infection or accident never happens, these measures would be redundant. The only problem is that no one can guarantee that bad things will not happen in the future. There are many things you do to reduce the chance of injury. Seat belts, car seats, and vaccines are among some of the preparation parents can do in anticipating these bad things.

As with the use of seat belts or air bags, vaccines are not risk free. So do you forgo the protection these devices can offer because of the problems associated with them? It all comes down to balancing the relative risk of problems and the potential degree of protection offered by these devices. If you studied the detailed analysis of each vaccine in this book, you can reach your own conclusion about each vaccine.

Since most children are healthy and already have a strong immune system that protects them from germs, many parents question whether vaccination can offer any additional protection against germs. For the same reason that you would want your child to wear a helmet when skateboarding or riding a scooter, you would want as much protection for your child as possible when it comes to serious injuries and infections. Even though your child already has a set of strong bones and skull to protect the brain, you still prefer an extra layer of defense in case of an unanticipated injury. You don't want to leave your child out in the cold when it comes to life-threatening infections, either.

Some parents decide not to vaccinate their children unless there is a community outbreak of the infection. But this practice is flawed. None of the vaccines work fast. Typically it takes between two to six weeks after vaccination before the vaccine can start having a protective effect on a person. In the midst of an infectious disease outbreak, vaccinating children who were previously unprotected would be futile.

Similarly, you would not try to buckle up your seat belt when you realize that an accident is about to occur. There would not be enough time for you to react, and it would be too late by the time you realize you should have worn your seat belt earlier.

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