1. The evidence linking vaccines with autism turned out to be fraudulent.
The study that started the whole “vaccines cause autism” frenzy actually turned out to be fraudulent. The main author of the study had taken money from an attorney that was suing vaccine developer, and the publication that published the study has since retracted it. The scientific community now holds a broad consensus that there is no link between autism and vaccines.
All that said, vaccines are a medical procedure, and all medical procedures carry some level of risk. But experts agree that the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the possible risks, and the risks associated with vaccines have decreased significantly over time thanks to improvements in the medical field.
2. Vaccines aren’t about keeping yourself from getting a disease.
You know how each year around winter, you’re faced with the prospect of getting the flu shot, and you think, “Eh, I won’t mind if I get the flu. I’ll take a sick day and eat some crackers and soup.”
That’s nice, but vaccinations aren’t just about keeping you from getting sick: they’re about preventing the spread of the disease. Ultimately, vaccinations aren’t an individual endeavor, but a social endeavor.
3. Your choice could hurt more people than just your kid.
A huge part of the debate over vaccines revolves around parents right to choose whether their kids get vaccinated or not. In fact, this might be a moot point: if you choose not to get your kids vaccinated, you’re actually choosing for other people’s kids as well. For example, children under a certain age are too young to get the vaccine. Other children have cancer or other diseases that compromise their immune systems, and thus are vulnerable. And sometimes the initial vaccine doesn’t take.
In a society where everyone is vaccinated, this isn’t a problem, because the risk is extraordinarily low. But in a society where people choose not to get vaccinated, this is a serious problem. Forget your own kid: you could be hurting the kid next door.
4. This is a global problem.
In most of the western world, we’re lucky enough to have good public health systems. If a disease outbreak occurs, we can take real steps to contain it. But this isn’t the case in many developing countries, where public health systems may be weak, and where diseases have a much better chance of taking hold. And when diseases really start spreading, they don’t pay any attention to borders.
We saw this most recently with the global spread of Ebola. We were able to shut it down in the developed world, but what if things had been reversed? What if diseases from our countries had gone into places like Liberia or Sierra Leone? It can — and does — happen, and when it hits those countries, it’s way worse than it is here. Which means that, if we want to be neighborly towards the world’s poorer country, the cool thing to do isn’t just to help get them healthy, but to keep ourselves healthy as well.
5. It works in the U.S.
This infographic shows how vaccines have helped the U.S. become a healthier place:
6. It’s not political.
Americans try to make every issue into Republican vs. Democrat. And in this case, there’s literally no political “side” to this battle. While the headlines in the U.S. right now are about Republicans Chris Christie and Rand Paul expressing misguided doubts about vaccines, it’s not fair to say that it’s a Republican issue: in 2008, Barack Obama pandered to anti-vaxxers during his campaign. Diseases don’t respect political affiliation. This isn’t about left vs. right.
7. It works worldwide.
This map shows the countries with the most unimmunized children.
Those are the countries that pose the largest public health risk, and as a result, you’re more likely to hear about disease outbreaks in India and West Africa. You’ll notice, though, that you rarely hear about outbreaks in another developing country — China — despite its huge population, population density, and it’s relatively high amounts of poverty. This is because China is actually pretty good about vaccinations.
8. This is one of the global problems we can actually fix.
At a time when global crises like climate change, war, corruption, and poverty seem pretty much insurmountable, global public health is actually a problem we have a pretty solid handle on. Sure, we haven’t cured AIDS or cancer just yet, but if we vaccinated the entire world, we could actually rid the world of certain diseases, and thus drastically improve the length and quality of life for millions of people. We’ve basically done it with smallpox and polio, and there’s no reason we can’t do it with all of the other diseases we have vaccines for. We could — more or less — destroy one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s a rare example where we can do our small part to put a better world within our — or more importantly, our children’s — grasp.