I've done some intensive digging into these questions and my sense is that vaccines have done very little to save people from death. I won't claim no benefit at all, but the credit given to vaccines is way out of line for what was actually accomplished.
In addition to direct damage from vaccines, I'm also concerned about interfering with normal childhood illnesses like measles, mumps and chickenpox. My suspicion is that a few good hot fevers are beneficial for a healthy child and help to develop the immune system in the right way. Plus shifting childhood illnesses into adulthood, as can happen with vaccines, can be a disaster.
The smallpox vaccine was not a big success. It wasn't until someone figured out that mass vaccination was ineffective and the public health folks switched to a combo of quarantine and ring vaccination that the disease was eliminated. Also, in the U.S., for unknown reasons, the most dangerous variety of smallpox was suddenly replaced by a much milder strain. So for the last 60 years of vaccine use, the very dangerous vaccine was probably killing more people than the quite mild variety of smallpox ever could have. The story of the smallpox vaccine in the 20th century is a triumph of faith over facts.
In order to get a good picture of the reasons people died of infectious disease, read a good biography of a progressive leader: the recent biography of Jacob Riis, for example.
Then read this paper
: The Questionable Contribution of Medical Measures to the Decline of Mortality in the United States in the Twentieth Century by John B. McKinlay and Sonia M. McKinlay (Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly: Health and Society, Summer 1977).
For those who want a lighter intro to the topic, insidevaccines has an excellent series on the scary statistics being spread around by the vaccine enthusiasts. Here
is part I.