Why you should vaccinate your children

Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent report that the MMR vaccine causes autism has resulted in a generation of children (~age 10-16) who have a historically low vaccination rate (below 50% in some places). As a result, the rate of measles infection has skyrocketed in Britain:

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22277186
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22277186

There have also been outbreaks in the United States, with significant infections so far this year in many places, including Brooklyn and New Jersey.

The good news is that thanks to excellent public health outreach in England, vaccination rates are improving significantly. But I worry that many people still don’t understand the issues. Let me summarize them for you:

Measles is so contagious that nearly every unvaccinated child who is exposed will develop the disease.

Every one out of 10 children with measles will develop an ear infection

Every one out of 20 children will develop pneumonia.

Every one out of 1,000 will get encephalitis.

Every one or two out of 1,000 will die.

Source: CDC

And that’s just measles. Unfortunately, parents’ fears can extend to all vaccines. For example, this couple’s failure to vaccinate lead to their child’s horrible infection with tetanus.

“If you google vaccines you get a lot of pros and a lot of cons, and you start to read all the cons and they start to weigh on you and you start to believe all the things that are said. It looks like a fifty-fifty argument.”

And indeed, there are a lot of celebrities currently running around saying that vaccines are dangerous for children, including Rob Schneider and Jenny McCarthy. They are wrong.

Few things make me more angry than this nonsense. Parents who choose not to vaccinate are doing so with the well-intentioned belief that they’re protecting their kids, but they’re being completely deceived by people trying to make money. Deception on the part of the leaders of this movement is literally killing children.

These are some of their tactics:

Table 2 from Kata (2012)
Table 2 from Kata (2012)

Please, if you are a parent with concerns about this issue, don’t listen to actors who don’t even understand the germ theory of disease. All of their so-called evidence is either anecdotal, or fradulent.

I know that searching for reputable sources of information online can be confusing. Here’s a very good summary of places where you can get information that’s trustworthy:


Scientists really do take this issue seriously, and have investigated your concerns carefully. Here is the most recent meta-review of all studies done on the link between vaccines and autism. It concludes:

Based on this body of evidence, the committee concludes that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.

Here is a great guide for non-scientists to understand all of the most recent studies on vaccines: http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/vaccinestudies.pdf

And finally, here’s one mother’s story of how she made the decision to vaccinate her child and what the consequences were.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to sound off about websites you’ve seen promoting quackery? Are you confused if a particular study is legitimate or not? Feel free to comment below!

Further reading:
Kata, A. 2012. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Vaccine 30 3778– 3789.

12 thoughts on “Why you should vaccinate your children

  1. Autism Mom Praying In The Storm June 15, 2013 / 2:20 pm

    I think we should be very cautious about vaccines. You left out of your numbers that 1 in 50 school aged children has some sort of autism. As for hollywood endorsements, they are on both sides of the fence. The truth is somewhere in the middle but money is the main driver for any vaccine – Big Pharma could care less about the regular people, only the bottom line.

    • Jennifer Raff June 15, 2013 / 3:23 pm

      Autism is indeed very high (experts differ as to how many kids have it, but I’ve seen that statistic as well). And it’s tragic that it’s so prevalent. I think that finding the cause of autism is very, very important!
      But study after study has shown that vaccines aren’t it (I’ve cited links to dozens of rigorous studies above that have tested this explicitly). And most of the research I cited is done by independent scientists like me–we don’t work for Big Pharma! Zero connection there.

      So instead of getting hung up on vaccines–a red herring at this point–why don’t we continue to search for what actually causes autism? We know that the disease is highly heritable, so continued genomic research may help us learn more. There may also be an environmental component, or it could be epigenetic. We are getting closer to identifying a cause (or causes), but we’ve definitely ruled out vaccines.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. kc June 16, 2013 / 10:07 am

    Of the recorded cases of measles how many of those were not vaccinated?

    • Jennifer Raff June 19, 2013 / 2:04 pm

      Sorry it took me so long to respond! Great question. I just did a quick search, and found this source (which is actually peer reviewed), that stated for 2013: “Of the 8,499 cases of measles in the European Union in the past 12 months, 82% were unvaccinated, 13% were not fully vaccinated, and only 4% had received two doses of the MMR vaccine.”

  3. Steve Scott June 19, 2013 / 4:34 pm

    Autism Mom: The numbers of children with autism are indeed staggering. However; the increase in numbers of those diagnosed doesn’t correlate with the use of Thimerosal…the stabilizing compound that Wakefield identified as the culprit in the rise of autism rates.

    Once Thimerosal was removed from vaccines, nothing happened. Autism diagnosis rates continued to go up. The increase in diagnoses was attributable in part to the large numbers of children with Asperger’s syndrome who have been identified.

    Wakefield, as Jenny pointed out, is a fraud who benefitted directly from this moral panic that he himself engendered. He planned on selling autism diagnostic test kits, and anticipated making tens of millions of dollars from it and “litigation driven testing”.

    Here was the true conspiracy. It didn’t lie with “Big Pharma”.

    Wakefield’s original article was pulled from the medical journal “Lancet” and his name was taken of the British Medical Register. He can no longer practice medicine.

    We can malign the pharmaceutical industry for producing drugs that are ineffectual (see Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science”) and also criticize them for charging us a ridiculous amount for drugs that are cheap to produce. We don’t need a nonsense conspiracy for any of this. We have clear data for it.

    Be as cautious as you like. Nobody will force you to vaccinate your children.

    However; children have died from all of this. They’ll continue to die if we don’t get the vaccination rates back up.

  4. chickiepea August 29, 2013 / 12:38 pm

    This makes me wonder if you have children. I have seen vaccine damage firsthand and it is not pretty. It is not just Thimerosal that is the problem in vaccines. If you follow the current, mainstream vaccine schedule, you are injecting many vaccines into a very young child who has not yet had a chance to build up any immunity of his/her own. My own child has abnormal responses to strep, which is often used as an adjuvant. I have a hard time believing this is a coincidence, considering the increasing prevalence of PANDAS/PANS and autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia, etc. that are on the rise.
    The question is whether you want to risk your kids to an illness like measles, which may in fact be short-lived and fought off with a healthy immune system, or subject them to a life-long chronic illness that decreases the quality of life? It’s not an easy question for a parent, especially one who has seen both sides. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, quite honestly.
    Add in the fact that you get “rewarded” for vaccinating in every store you visit now, and it’s pretty scary that people aren’t doing their own research into all sides of the issue. Even if you argue that vaccines like MMR are necessary, that doesn’t explain why we suddenly need to vaccinate against less-scary diseases like, c’mon… the flu!? and chicken pox. Yes, there is a slight chance that SOME people are going to die from chicken pox and flu, but that chance is slight in comparison to what the vaccine damage could do.

    • Sullivanthepoop August 31, 2013 / 6:48 am

      Just because some chronic diseases are on the rise doesn’t mean vaccines are to blame. You are not damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you are only damned if you don’t. If your ‘research’ is leading you to these conclusions you are looking in the wrong places.

    • Jeri January 25, 2014 / 2:57 pm

      I’m a little late here.. as it is now January. But as far as flu vaccines go, you are wrong. I don’t know what qualifies as “some” to you but this is from an article posted on CNN’s website “Ten children died from complications of the flu last week, bringing the pediatric death total for the season to 20. The CDC does not have data on the number of adult flu deaths. Experts estimate the number of flu-related deaths range from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 people each year.”
      10 children in one week? and 3,000 adults in one year? That is too many for me.

    • seeareess April 1, 2014 / 2:33 pm

      I think you’ve got the evidence in reverse: there is a slight chance of vaccine damage in comparison to the chance that some people are going to die of chicken pox and flu. Much more chance of the latter. I have children and I sure don’t want them to get sick because SOME people can’t or don’t want to vaccinate their own kids.

      • seeareess April 1, 2014 / 2:40 pm

        I didn’t mean to say “SOME people can’t” vaccinate their kids; but that some people can’t understand the necessity! I wish WordPress allowed people to edit their comments.

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