I'm an anthropology major. When I had my son 2.5 years ago, I opted not to have him vaccinated. I wouldn't change that decision--we live in a sanitary home, he's still nursing occasionally, and doesn't go to an overcrowded daycare. He also has access to nutritious foods (getting him to EAT them..well... we're working on that...)
However, I recently had a conversation with my environmental anthropology professor that has brought some unsettled doubts to the forefront of my mind. My personal belief is that it's more important to help people in places like Haiti or Brazil improve their living standards--access to clean water, sanitation, healthy food, etc. But it seems that it's more urgent to vaccinate the children if they're going to make it. Because everyone is so malnourished, they have very little immune system to fight off diseases that don't scare me. Kids can actually die of measles, or cholera, or whatever else is floating around. If my son got the measles, I'd tuck him into bed and use natural remedies or take him to the doctor if those didn't work. If a little toddler in the poor parts of Brazil gets the measles, he pretty much dies. The lucky ones make it, but there's not a whole lot of luck going around.
So my question is, since it seems obvious that vaccines are saving lives in areas where people have no infrastructure to support healthy immune systems, shouldn't we be supporting that? It takes a lot longer to change an entire system than it does to stick people with needles. I still think the system change is much more important and effective, but it won't save the life of an undernourished man, woman, or child. They may not live long enough to even see change. The same goes for the hungry poor right here in the U.S. Food deserts are causing malnutrition in many people--some may look obese, but their bodies are hungry for actual nutrition to which they have no access.
I'm very torn on this issue. I could use some insight or advice as I follow this career path.