Vaccine Benefits, Vaccine Risks: 10 Basic Questions Answered
7. What good do vaccines do?
"For every year's worth of vaccines we give out," says Schuchat, "over the
life of the people receiving them, we prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million
illnesses with direct medical savings of $9.9 billion dollars and total
societal savings of $43 billion. So vaccines greatly reduce life-threatening
illnesses and deaths and also save money.
"Vaccines provide direct protection to the person immunized. But they also
protect the family and the community.
"For example, infants and toddlers have since the year 2000 received
pneumococcal vaccines to protect against dangerous brain, blood, lung, ear, and
sinus infections. By vaccinating young children, we dramatically reduced
disease in children but also dramatically reduced disease in adults by
preventing spread of illness from children to others. That is the case for many
vaccines: We get population protection. We protect the individual, and also
"For flu, we recommend vaccinating people at high risk of complications, but
also recommend vaccination for their contacts, for parents of young children or
caretakers of the elderly, because they prevent the person from spreading the
disease to the vulnerable person."
8. How can I maximize my child's protection and minimize his or her risk?
"Many vaccines are recommended for every child," says Schuchat. "It is
important to talk to your health care provider, to make regular appointments,
and to keep them -- and to ask if any vaccinations are due and if your child is
up to date. It is important to immunize but also important to immunize on time
because gaps can leave a child vulnerable. You can keep a record of which
immunizations they have gotten, something that is good for you and for their
schools to have."
"In terms of reducing a child's risk of infectious diseases,
hand washing is really important. A lot of these diseases can be spread
when germs get on our hands.
"It is very appropriate for parents to want information and to keep
themselves informed. The
vaccine information statements are a good source of information. Parents
want to protect children and want good information. They must be comfortable
raising questions with their doctor or nurse and getting the answers they are
looking for. After all, the first job of parents is to protect their child's
9. Wouldn't it be safer if I refuse to vaccinate my child?
"Vaccines protect against serious and life-threatening infections," says
Schuchat. "So the choice to not immunize your child is like playing Russian
roulette. The diseases are still out there. Other nations in the world don't
have as strong an immunization system as we do, and those germs can come from
anywhere. Leaving your child unimmunized is really putting your child and your
family at risk."