The ImmunizeBC website lists 5 good reasons to vaccinate.
Firstly, vaccinations save lives. Vaccines have saved more lives in Canada than any other medical intervention in the last 50 years. Before vaccines became available many Canadians died from diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio. Death is not the only consequence to be feared from these diseases however.
For example, in 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, polio was paralysing more than 1000 children a day worldwide. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers.
Secondly, deadly diseases do still pose a risk. Immunization has been so successful that many of the diseases that vaccines prevent are now rare in developed countries such as Canada. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause these diseases still exist. As immunization rates drop, these diseases will return, and before long we will start seeing epidemics, the like of which few living people remember.
How diseases become “active’ again is illustrated by what occurred in Ireland when the number of measles cases rose from 148 cases in 1999 to 1200 cases just one year later, as MMR immunization rates dropped to 76% due to a misguided article linking MMR vaccine to autism. Sadly, several children died in the outbreak.
The third reason for Canadians to keep getting their immunizations is related to international travel. We can’t sit feeling secure in our nice clean modern country thinking that all the nasty diseases are just a problem somewhere else. Now all it takes is one traveller and a few hours on a plane to bring the problem home to us.
An example of this is the Fraser Valley outbreak of measles in 2014. This was traced to a family returning from a trip overseas where one child became infected. Due to low immunization rates in the community, the virus was able to spread quickly.
The fourth reason to vaccinate is that vaccines are both safe and effective. They are only approved for use in Canada if they meet very strict standards for safety and efficacy. Most side effects to vaccines are mild and very short lived. Significant side effects such as severe allergic reactions are incredibly rare.
Finally, vaccines protect everyone. This is very important to consider when making the decision to not get vaccinated. Vaccination does not just protect the person getting immunized, it helps protect everyone around them too. The more people in a community who have received a vaccine for a particular disease, the lower the chance that disease will have of spreading in a community. For example, if the child who was infected with the measles virus overseas had returned to a fully immunized community, the virus would have had nowhere to go and the outbreak would not have happened.
Herd immunity indirectly protects babies who are still too young to be vaccinated, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons such as being on chemotherapy and people who may not adequately respond to being immunized, such as the elderly.