Via her excellent blog Aetiology, Dr. Tara C. Smith writes very eloquently on Why I vaccinate my kids. Excerpt (but read the whole thing, and check the links):
I know you just want to do what’s best for your child. I feel you. I’m the parent of a teenager, a tween, and a 2-month old. Here is why I vaccinate my children.
I’ve spent almost 20 years of my life studying infectious diseases up-close and personal, not from random websites on Google. I’ve worked with viruses and bacteria in the lab. I respect what germs are capable of. I worry about vaccine-preventable diseases coming back because of low levels of herd immunity. I cry over stories of babies lost to pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
As I’ve noted before, chicken pox has played a role in the deaths of two family members, so I don’t view that as just a “harmless childhood disease.” Vaccines have eradicated or severely reduced many of the deadliest diseases from the past: smallpox, polio, measles, diptheria.
But that’s not the only reason I vaccinate. I vaccinate because I’m all too aware of the nasty diseases out there that still don’t have an effective vaccine. My current work focuses on a germ called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”), a “superbug” which kills about 11,000 people every year in the United States. We have no vaccine.
I previously worked on two different types of Streptococcus: group A and group B. Group B is mainly a problem for babies, and kills about 2,000 of them every year. It leaves many others with permanent brain damage after infection. We have no vaccine.
Group A kills about 1,500 people each year in the U.S. and can cause nasty (and deadly) infections like necrotizing fasciitis (the “flesh-eating disease”). We have no vaccine.
These are all despite the fact that we still have antibiotics to treat most of these infections (though untreatable infections are increasing). Infectious diseases still injure and kill, despite our nutritional status, despite appropriate vitamin D levels, despite sanitation improvements, despite breastfeeding, despite handwashing, despite everything we do to keep our kids healthy.
This is why protection via vaccination is so important for the diseases where it’s available. If vaccines were available for the diseases I listed above, I’d have my kids get them in a heartbeat.