We've all heard the news: measles outbreaks have returned and are taking many cities and communities by storm. Why would such a virus that was once considered to be nearly eradicated in the Western world return? It's due to the increasing number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children under any circumstances, despite otherwise acting rationally to help their children overcome illnesses and other malaise. As measles is a vaccine-preventable disease, not vaccinating against it would simply open up an opportunity for infection. Measles is only one of these diseases, with others such as polio having even more debilitating effects.
Why would people be so irrational toward vaccines in the first place? It's due to a paper published by Andrew Wakefield, a British physician who associated the MMR vaccine to the increasing incidence of autism over several years. This is, by all means, false and has been extensively investigated and disproved. This begs the question: if MMR didn't cause autism, what did? We've just been getting much better at diagnosing it after it was decided that autism would be reclassified as a spectrum disorder; there are varying degrees of the condition.
I promise you, vaccines will 99.9% do more good than bad. There are instances where the vaccine could cause an allergic reaction in some people, but in most people, the most that would happen is a slight fever as your immune system builds a defense to it. Vaccines work by introducing a weakened or dead pathogen sample into the bloodstream, where the immune system quickly detects and builds a defense to it in the form of antibodies and memory cells. The real magic of vaccines occurs with the memory cells, as memory cells are very long-lived and can always respond to the same pathogen that it once built a defense to. In fact, responding to the same pathogen results in a much faster and stronger response that you wouldn't even notice. So in most people, vaccines are life-saving because your body can build a defense against something that can't even infect you in the first place, so why the hell are so many people against it?
I would suggest that the answer is fear. Many children don't get vaccinated because their parents do not consent, and they themselves don't get vaccinated because of fear that they would cause something else. The whole "Big Pharma" conspiracy is completely false and so are the bogus websites that still continue to "prove" links between various illnesses and autism. But confirmation bias still overrules rationality, so getting through that wall is going to be a challenge.
Anti-vaxxers could pop the argument that their bodies can just become immune naturally and vaccines wouldn't make much of a difference. If that were the case, smallpox would have already been eradicated and not killed over 20 million people. Until the first vaccine, the smallpox vaccine was developed, smallpox would have been one of the deadliest diseases known to people. Vaccines make the job of our immune systems much easier as our body can focus on building a defense rather than doing damage control for a progressive disease. I'll also use the polio example again — would you rather be paralyzed for a very long time just to prove that you could build an immunity to the virus? That's what I thought.
But anti-vaxxers don't just put their children in danger; they put others, especially immunocompromised people, the elderly, and young children in danger. Their argument would be that if vaccines work so well, it shouldn't matter whether themselves or their children are affected, as everyone else would be immune. While that does sound compelling on paper, it's still far from the truth. The aforementioned groups have weakened or immature immune systems and even vaccinations might not 100% prevent them from getting infections at that stage. If you don't vaccinate and use this argument, trying to use their "immunity" as a buffer to do as you please is completely cruel and immoral, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Measles itself is so infectious that most people need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to show tangible results.
I am a strong believer in mandatory vaccinations to that end; unless you have a severe reaction, there is no excuse. It is the social and moral responsibility of every capable human to not just protect themselves but protect others around them. So if you don't vaccinate, start doing so, it's your duty.