“If left totally to chance, your child’s first natural exposure to a disease may be from a germ too strong for their tiny body to fight. Before we had vaccines, many kids were hospitalized or died as a result of infectious diseases. The same germs exist today, but parents now have the ability and choice to protect their children.”
– Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
It is true that in some cases immunity from a naturally acquired infection can last longer than immunity acquired from a vaccine. However, there are no free rides with natural immunity. Even a mild case of a disease, whether it be chickenpox, measles or even pertussis, will inflict a certain degree of suffering upon the child.
Understanding how vaccines work can help parents choose between vaccinating and not vaccinating.
Vaccines protect our children by creating a practice run, so to speak. That is, they stimulate the immune system to recognize particular germs and develop antibodies that recognize and fight infection. Those antibodies remain in their bodies to protect them if they should encounter the natural form of the disease. They are defended if the real disease should happen along.
A natural infection does the same thing, but unfortunately the child will suffer the symptoms and sometimes deadly consequences of a disease. Even if the risk of death is not particularly high for a disease, the risk of hospitalization or lifelong disability may be. We tend to forget about that part.
Immunizing your child is a safe and controlled form of acquiring immunity because vaccines trigger the same immune response as when the body encounters natural exposure, but without causing illness. However, many children will have mild side effects such as fever from a vaccine.