What are the benefits and risks of childhood vaccinations?
Vaccines are among the most remarkable achievements in the history of medicine. Thanks to the development and widespread use of vaccines, we have reduced vaccine-preventable infections in the US by 95 to 99 percent. This means we’ve prevented 14 million infections and 33,000 deaths in the United States in 2008. Ironically, the success of vaccines has led to concern about their safety. I remember polio and the fear every summer of people contracting the infection. When a vaccine became available, people rushed to receive it, praising the ability to rid society of this debilitating disease. Today, most young people in the US have never seen a case of polio and may well not even know of the infection. All this is due to the vaccines. But when you don’t see a disease, it’s hard to perceive a benefit of prevention. So people have focused on the possible risks of vaccines. As with anything we do in medicine, vaccines have risks. However, the vast majority of risks are not severe and resolve