Vaccinate even if it probably won’t make a different to you personally

From the ongoing series “how do statistics feel to me” (previous episode)

vaccines

Vaccines create adults

This is a strong slogan, but it’s trivially false and, eventually, stupid. There were plenty of adults before vaccines. Almost every kid that gets one of the diseases that we vaccinate against will survive just fine. Many other pro-vaccination slogans are equally alarmist, equally false, and (I believe) equally counter-productive.

Mind you, I agree with the idea that vaccines are good and I think they should be mandatory, due to the fact that children cannot make informed decisions and vaccination has public health consequences (it’s not just your body, your choice, it’s our herd immunity, our choice). But, even if all vaccines were to disappear, most of the time, the kids would be fine. In fact, the total mortality rate might be not more than 1-2% (deaths before the age of 5).

Without vaccines, most families would not have to explain to the older brother why their sister died, they would not have to mourn a dead child. Society would not materially change that much. There would be roughly as many adults around.

However, 1-2% of children dying would be horrible. There is no need to exaggerate to make it sound even worse: it would be bad enough. If you take your kids to kindergarten, and your kindergarten has an average size, that would be one child funeral per year (or every other year).

Without vaccines, your child would most likely be fine, the odds are in their favour (they’d have a 98% chance of making it). However, you would probably have to explain to them that someone in their school of a horrible disease at some point in their early childhood. You’d probably be saying “Good Morning” to at least one parent who lost a child on a regular basis. If you are a early-education teacher, you’d have to expect to attend at least half-a-dozen funerals in your career, mourning little children.

This is a tremendous amount of pain and grief.

Most kids would be fine, most kids were fine before vaccines. But 1-2% is way too much. We’d see people developing defense mechanisms (Detachment parenting: don’t get too close before you know they’ll make it, a New York Times best seller for the post-vaccine era). We don’t need vaccines to create adults, but a world without them is a significantly worse world than the one we live in today.

It’s not “if we don’t vaccinate, all children will die”: that’s flashy, but false.

Rather, it’s “when you walk into kindergarten with your toddler tomorrow, think that, without vaccines, one child in there would die every other year. It’s probably not going to be yours, but, please, vaccinate them.”

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