This post caught my eye yesterday and I didn't have time to respond until today.
Why did I decide to vaccinate? On both sides of my immediate family, there are older family members that have been directly impacted by not having access to vaccines. I have an aunt that contracted polio as a child and is now suffering from the effects that return with age (limited mobility). My father remembers seeing family members and neighbors cut down by the illnesses that are rare today due to vaccinations. On the other side of the family, my grandmother and great aunts lost 4 of their siblings to vaccine preventable illness.
Because I am only one (and two) generations away from close family members that experienced the worst case scenarios of not having vaccinations, I was raised to believe there every reason to vaccinate and no reasons not to. My family, however, is probably an extreme example.
My youngest biological daughter was diagnosed with autism in 1993. She was part of the first wave of autistic children. I had a lot of mercury fillings put in before I got pregant. And she was fully vaxxed in infancy. My sister had twins and one of them nearly died of brain swelling after an immunization. To this day he's considered "slow" and he's always lagged behind his twin. I am VERY aware of the dangers of injecting foreign substances directly into a baby's bloodstream. Like peanut oil. I have two nephews who will die if they accidently consume something made with peanut oil. To me that's a MUCH bigger risk than dying of polio. I've read that the alarming increase of peanut allergies is due to the use of peanut oil as an excipient in vaccines.
If I had it to do over, I probably wouldn't vax my infants. I would have researched each and every vax and made sure the benefits outweigh the risks and probably selectively vaxxed as they neared school age. But when my children were little we didn't have the internet and we just did what the doctor said. We didn't have options. We couldn't look things up and we had no way of knowing what other parents were thinking and finding out.
I adopted 2 children who were fully vaxxed. My only choice is whether I want to give them the boosters for school. So I don't have so much choice. Nor responsibility. I'm picking and choosing which vaxxes to give them. I don't envy young mothers having to make these decisions. There's a lot of fear mongering on both sides. Every where you turn somebody claims to have the "Truth."
I'm very glad that we have a choice though. I think/hope that the flood of parents opting out of vaxxing has forced them to reexamine the worst ingredients (like mercury) and hopefully replace them with something better. I hope. It's a tough choice for mamas. Parenting is a tough gig. And just wait till they start dating...
I find a lot of the information from the anti-vax camp to be scaremongering and alarmist, and while I do think that some people do have serious vaccine reactions, and in some subset of these there is a permanent effect, I think the incidence rate is so low that I'm not concerned. The Internet can distort people's perceptions of the severity of risk without them seeing the ways in which it does. I would rather reduce my kid's risk of getting a VPD than reduce her risk of a vaccine reaction. Also, I do believe in herd immunity and I think it's important to have a high level of immunity in the population to help protect those who are too young or too medically fragile to get the vaccines. We have not had medical problems with vaccines in our family. If someone in my gene pool had had a serious problem, I might rethink, because that would mean my child would be at a higher risk of a reaction as well, but nobody has.
My mom is a doctor with dual specialties in infectious disease and pediatrics, and I generally take her advice about vaccinations. Additionally, I went through chemotherapy this last year, and while my immune system was down, it was really important to limit the potential for the kids to bring home contagious illness.
I absolutely believe that anyone should consider themselves, their medical and family history, and their circumstances when making vaccine decisions, but I also believe that vaccinating is safe and beneficial to all but a very few people.
I vaccinate because I'm convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks.
I think the risks are massively overplayed on any internet search involving vaccines (where I agree they sound terrifying), and I think the benefits are neglected because we're so used to taking them for granted (e.g. we now expect most of our kids to live past the age of 5).
Mother of two living in UK. Daughter (2007) born in USA, son (2010) born here. I'm pro natural birth, midwife care, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing and a keen advocate of cloth diapering. I'm a full time working research scientist (physical sciences). Vaccines save lives.