The first part of the risk-benefit analysis previously described is more rational, more mathematical, and more logical. You should also factor in some less rational issues in your decision-making process.
First, you need to think about how you view public health versus your individual child’s health. As described, the public health viewpoint is that the benefits of vaccinating everyone outweigh the side effects, even the serious side effects, that some children suffer from the vaccines. In short, the benefits for the many outweigh the harm to the few. For most parents, this is generally true, unless the harm is to their child. So how much are you willing to support public health if it increases the risk to your own child?
Now, if you don’t vaccinate, you might be counting on herd immunity to last so you can avoid the risk to your own child from both the disease and the vaccine. But you also have to ask yourself what would happen if lots of people stopped vaccinating. If enough people stop vaccinating, then herd immunity will fail, and your child will be at a higher risk from the disease because it is more common. So how do you factor in the increased risk to your child as a member of the local population if herd immunity fails?
You also need to consider your belief system with regards to medicine. We have a few parents who don’t trust doctors, who don’t trust the government, and who don’t trust corporations. They obviously have a very difficult time trusting anything we say about vaccines.
There are also families who don’t believe in medical treatments but feel that alternative therapies are better able to protect their children from disease. They believe in acupuncture and organic foods and homeopathy. They feel that vaccines are unnatural and harmful to the body and that contracting the disease is the most natural way to build immunity. They too have their own hesitations about vaccines.
Again, that is not to say that our opinion is right and their opinion is wrong. We am merely pointing out that these beliefs should be clearly on the table and recognized as key influences on the final decision.