Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist throughout the world, even in the U.S. While you might not see some of these diseases every day, they are still common in other countries and could easily be brought into the U.S.
If we stopped vaccinating, the relatively small number of cases we have in the U.S. could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of people infected with diseases. Even if your family does not travel internationally, you and your family could come into contact with travelers anywhere in your community. When people don’t receive all of the recommended vaccinations and are exposed to a disease, they can become seriously sick and spread it through their community.
The only vaccine-preventable disease that is completely eradicated (gone) from the world is smallpox. Polio is now the next closest to being eliminated around the world, but it still exists in some countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since we know that diseases can spread from country to country through international travelers and trade, we must all continue to be vaccinated so the disease doesn’t come back in the U.S.
All vaccine-preventable diseases are not the same. Some diseases are more deadly, and some others are more contagious. But whether the chance of getting sick or dying from is a particular disease is 1 in 100 or 1 in 10,000, you must decide if the risk is worth taking with your family’s and community’s health. No one ever thinks that they or their child will be the 1 in 10,000 that will die from a vaccine-preventable disease.
How can I protect my family and my community from vaccine-preventable diseases?
To best protect yourself and every member of your family from vaccine-preventable diseases, follow the CDC’s recommended immunization schedules. Vaccines are not just for protecting ourselves and our families. They also protect the people of all ages in our community who are unable to get certain vaccines; who are too young to get vaccinated against certain diseases; who might have failed to respond to a vaccine; or who might be particularly susceptible to serious diseases and their complications for other reasons like cancer or HIV. This concept is known as “community immunity” or “herd immunity”.
Vaccines also protect our children’s children and their children by keeping diseases that used to be more common in the U.S. from coming back. If we stopped vaccinating in the U.S., we could find ourselves fighting serious and often deadly diseases we thought we had gotten rid of (or were mostly gone) decades ago.