We recommend performing a risk-benefit analysis for vaccines because we think that most people are already subconsciously evaluating vaccines in this manner. Our goal is to make the process more explicit, more obvious, and more transparent. We think that by clearly outlining a thought process, people will come to more clarity in their decision-making process and therefore be more comfortable with their final decision.
For example, we regularly encounter parents who are concerned with certain vaccines or certain side effects and thus decline certain vaccines. In our discussion, we ask them to answer this question: If your family was traveling to a third-world country where you would be exposing your child to polio, measles, and other vaccine-preventable illnesses, would you consider vaccinating your child with these troublesome vaccines? Almost every parent answers yes.
Their answer shows that they are willing to consider individual vaccines on a case-by-case basis. In this example, they are declining vaccinations in the United States, where there is a low risk of contracting these diseases, because they feel that the vaccine’s benefits do not outweigh the risks. However, when traveling to a country where the risk of getting the illness is higher, they are deciding that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risk of any side effects. They are weighing the risks of the vaccine (known and unknown side effects) versus the benefits of the vaccine (minimized risk of contracting the disease). They are already doing their own risk-benefit analysis.
In the end, this type of analysis helps you identify what factors you want to consider when deciding about certain vaccines. It also demonstrates to hesitant parents that under certain circumstances, they might decide to vaccinate their child.