The modern history of vaccinations begins with the story of Edward Jenner. He used material from cowpox pustules as a way to provide people with protection against smallpox. As disgusting as that option may sound today, 1796 was a very different year. After two centuries of improvements, Jenner’s work would help to result in the disease’s eradication.
Louis Pasteur would have similar results with his efforts at creating a rabies vaccine in 1885. Once humanity understood bacteriology, we developed vaccines and antitoxins to stop typhoid, tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, bubonic plague, and many other diseases.
These efforts have a foundation in history that is older than many people realize. Chinese cultures were practicing variolation as a way to stop smallpox as early as the 10th century. Their practices went to Turkey and Africa before spreading around the world.
When examining the pros and cons of vaccinations, it is imperative that we look at facts instead of opinions. That’s not to say that we should discount personal stories from this process, but we must look at the bigger picture.
List of the Pros of Vaccinations
1. Vaccinations eliminate the price people pay from natural infections.
Although a natural infection almost always causes better immunity than a vaccine, there can be a high price paid if someone catches a potentially dangerous virus. If you get chickenpox, then that encounter can lead to pneumonia. Someone who catches the hepatitis B virus can wind up with live cancer one day. If you catch the measles, then there is a small chance that you could die.
Vaccines might require multiple doses to be effective, but the outcomes are generally less severe with each treatment. The immune system sees an invader, destroys it, and then logs that event in its memory to prevent a similar outcome from occurring.
2. The use of vaccines saves lives.
The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million children each year have the gift of life because vaccines prevent them from getting a preventable disease infection. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that most childhood inoculations are up to 99% effective in the prevention of disease. We can debate the ingredients in these products today, but it is also essential to remember why they were developed in the first place.
Polio used to paralyze tens of thousands of children each year around the world. During its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, the disease would impact over 500,000 people every summer. Parents were extremely fearful about what could happen, and an unlucky few spent their entire lives in an iron lung. Vaccinations have changed this.
3. The ingredients in vaccinations are not used at harmful levels.
The three primary ingredients that create concerns for people are aluminum, formaldehyde, and thimerosal. When these items get introduced to the human body in large quantities, then they can be quite harmful. The small amount that goes into the inoculation products is not at a level that introduces health problems. Thimerosal isn’t even in childhood vaccines anymore, so it is no longer a worry except in the flu shot.
4. Problematic reactions to vaccines are quite rare.
The most common side effects of a vaccine are fatigue, headache, swelling at the injection site, and redness. Allergic reactions can sometimes occur, but they often stay limited to the place where the inoculation occurred. An anaphylaxis reaction is about a one in 1 million occurrence. It can happen at any time, so parents and caregivers should watch for swelling around the neck, face, and lips.
If you do experience an adverse reaction to a vaccine, then contact your doctor immediately to have a notation placed in your medical file. You can also report the incident in the United States by contacting the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program at 1 (800) 338-2382.
5. Most major medical associations state that vaccinations are safe to receive.
The list of medical associations and organizations that support vaccination is lengthy. UNICEF, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association all support their use. Although everyone is free to disagree with this advantage if they want, many of these institutions say that inoculations are some of the safest medical products that are available to consumers today.
Even if unwanted side effects occur, the benefits of receiving a vaccine almost always outweigh the temporary discomfort that some people experience.
6. Vaccinations contribute to herd protection.
Newborns are unable to receive most vaccinations, which means they rely on herd immunity to protect them. A specific percentage of people in the population must receive an inoculation to protect the vulnerable populations who cannot have them. When a significant majority of people are immune to a contagious disease, then it is unlikely for an outbreak to occur. That means most people receive protection, even if they cannot receive a shot.
Even if you have had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, working with an allergist can help you to identify the specific component that was problematic. The most common reactions involve eggs, gelatin, yeast, latex, and neomycin.
7. Vaccines provide economic benefits to society.
The children vaccinated since 1994 have yielded a net savings of over $1.3 trillion because they have not come down with the disease that was part of their vaccination series. This figure includes preventing lost productivity because of disability or early death. There are short-term monetary benefits to consider with vaccines that parents and caregivers should also consider. Many health insurance plans cover the cost of mandatory shots without a co-pay, which means families receive a free way to prevent future wellness concerns.
Even the cost to treat chickenpox is surprisingly high, with severe cases reaching almost $600 per day for each affected child. Additional expenses related to parental absenteeism and related factors cause that cost to rise even further.
8. Vaccinations can help to protect the next generation.
Mothers who receive vaccinations are protecting their unborn children from viruses that could create several problems. When a community receives a high enough percentage of inoculations, then this action helps to eradicate diseases for future generations. The incidents of smallpox and polio are very low today because of this unique advantage.
Several infections have the possibility of causing problems, including cytomegalovirus, rubella, herpes, toxoplasmosis, and zika. Not all of them have vaccine protections, so women who are pregnant or are trying to be should take precautions to ensure a healthy result.
9. Vaccines allow for safer international travel.
If you live in the United States, then the concern over serious diseases is relatively low. When you travel internationally, you might find yourself in a location where contagious disease exposure is more common. That’s why doctors recommend that you receive a series of travel vaccinations based on where you plan to be.
In addition to your routine vaccinations, you’ll want to consider typhoid, paratyphoid fever, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and hepatitis A and B before getting on a plane.
10. It prevents outbreaks from occurring.
Measles outbreaks in 2019 were some of the worst seen in over 30 years. Minnesota experienced one in 2017 that was more significant than anything they’ve experienced in the last three decades as well. Although there is a belief that the diseases a vaccine protects against are rare and not needed, the reason why it became this way in the first place was because of the efforts to inoculate as many people as possible.
Receiving a vaccination may increase the risk of an allergic reaction compared to not receiving one at all, but there are bigger risks that people take. An allergic reaction to contrast dye for CT scans and MRIs is 15 times more likely.
List of the Cons of Vaccinations
1. Vaccines can cause some serious side effects for some people.
Most people can receive a vaccine and not experience any adverse effects from the treatment. There are rare cases when allergic reactions can develop that cause painful symptoms like redness, soreness at the injection site, and swelling. The CDC notes that all vaccines carry with them a risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction that can impact about one child out of every 1 million in the population.
If you or your child receives a vaccination, you will want to watch for swelling that occurs in the face, mouth, or throat. It can be severe enough to cut off the air passageways so that it becomes impossible to breathe.
2. Some vaccines still contain thimerosal.
Thimerosal is an additive that goes into some vaccines to prevent fungi or bacteria growth. When there are germs in the shot, it can cause illness for the individual receiving the inoculation. There can even be life-threatening events when an unexpected invader enters the body in this way.
Some physicians and medical experts question the safety of thimerosal because it has mercury in it. This form of it doesn’t stay in the body in the same way that the stuff in fish does, so the CDC says it is “unlikely” to make someone sick. This additive is still found in today’s influenza vaccines.
3. It is a medical choice that people make for themselves.
Medical decisions should be left to each person, their family, and their doctor. Parents and caregivers are responsible for the health of their children. Vaccines are a way for the government to get involved in this process to declare that everyone must follow the same processes. Requiring vaccinations for children to go to public school can even limit their opportunities later in life all because elected officials or career bureaucrats disagree with the approach to certain shots.
4. When vaccines are mandatory, they can infringe on personal religious choices.
Very few religions expressly prohibit vaccination, but that doesn’t mean all of them do not. Islam declares vaccines to be unacceptable when they contain pork-derived products in them. Christian Scientists don’t practice this medical intervention, nor does the Dutch Reformed Church. American Muslims have not entirely opposed vaccination because of the principle of necessity, especially with the 2017 Dakar Declaration on Vaccination.
If you do follow one of these spiritual approaches and the government says you must receive a vaccination, then that could be a violation of your religious rights.
5. The ingredients used in vaccines are sometimes considered objectionable.
Some vaccines are made using animal products that include bovine casein, chicken eggs, dog cells, and pork gelatin. If an individual follows vegan or vegetarian philosophies, then introducing these elements into the human body can be thought of as immoral or objectionable. Some vaccines even contain cells from African Green monkeys.
Some vaccine production methods also use human albumin, a blood plasma protein, to develop the treatment. There can be some views that introducing this product into the body could be morally objectionable.
6. Some vaccines may contain fetal tissues.
The rubella, varicella, rabies, hepatitis A, and a version of the shingles vaccine are made by growing the viruses in embryo fibroblast cells. Two of the combination vaccines available in the United States contain poliovirus grown in this way. These cells are the ones needed to hold connective tissues and skin together. The first ones were obtained by the elective termination of two pregnancies in the 1960s, and the same ones obtained then are continued to be grown in laboratories.
If you have a moral objection to abortion, the natural progression of that view is that the introduction of a vaccine is irresponsible at best and likely immoral. These two cultures, called MRC-5 and WI-38, show to some that the ends don’t justify the means.
7. Natural vaccination creates better immunity.
The vaccines we create in laboratory situations are not as effective as the natural immunity development process. Infections almost always cause a better state of long-term protection, whereas it may take several doses of treatment to create the same result. Even though different illnesses may develop because of the exposure to an illness, there are fewer ingredients introduced to the body to create the necessary protection. Some people feel that being sick for a little while is better than the potential risks that an inoculation requires.
8. It can be challenging to trust businesses that profit from vaccinations.
Pharmaceutical companies earn profits because people are getting vaccines. The loudest voices that promote these products are often the ones making money from them. Even when you include CDC or FDA recommendations in the United States, there are regulatory practices that may not be as trustworthy as some claim they are.
When the goal is to sell a drug to make a profit, capitalism can encourage a less-than-honest approach.
9. Some vaccines do not have a high rate of success.
Proponents of vaccinations will point to the results of the Diphtheria and polio vaccines since they have a 100% success rate for creating immunity. Tetanus, rubella, and measles are all at 99.9%. What you don’t always see is the information about the other inoculations that aren’t as successful at creating immunity or protecting against specific diseases.
If you receive the mumps vaccine, then it is 95.7% effective. The whooping cough vaccination is only 89.4% effective – although that gets rounded up to 90%. When the 2018 influenza vaccine came out, it was only 36% effective – according to information published by the CDC.
10. They can be stressful for parents who are vaccinating their children.
The CDC has said that vaccines do not cause autism. There have been more than a dozen studies that have tried to find a link and have failed. But many people still either believe or wonder whether Autism Spectrum Disorder is linked to either the type or the number of vaccines children receive. Autism rates in developing countries have skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and people do not have an answer as to why. Until we do, or can disprove that the types or the numbers of vaccines that children get at one time are the reason or a contributing factor, vaccinating children will be stressful.
The primary concern that people have with the use of vaccines is the idea that they might cause autism. There are two studies that claim the MMR vaccine creates a higher risk of developmental delay, but both of them have fundamental flaws in them. Only one offers any viable information, whereas several research efforts disprove the notion that this outcome occurs.
Why is there so much confusion about vaccines and autism? Most children receive this vaccination at the same time the physical symptoms of being on the autistic spectrum begin to appear. It might seem like the two incidents are linked, but that is simply not the case when reviewing well-controlled studies.
The pros and cons of vaccinations are essential to review for everyone. Several vaccines, such as the one for tetanus, require ongoing updates to ensure the correct level of protection. At the end of the day, each person must do what they feel is right for themselves and their families. This information can help to make that decision possible.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.