Question: Isn’t it better for my child to build natural immunity than to get a vaccination?
Dr. LaSalle: Before vaccines, most kids were infected with a variety of childhood illnesses - diseases like Chicken pox, mumps, and more. And, once infected and recovered, their immune systems developed an immune memory that kept them from getting sick with those same illnesses again in the future.
The problem with getting these illnesses naturally is that they carry risk of death and other serious consequences. 1-to-2 out of every 1,000 children infected with measles will die. If a mother is infected with Rubella during her pregnancy, she is at high risk of miscarriage or pre-term labor and the baby is at risk of a condition called Congenital Rubella Syndrome. This syndrome can cause cataracts, deafness, heart defects, and developmental delay.
Chicken pox can cause pneumonias and encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), both of which can be deadly.
Before vaccines, every year millions of children around the world died or were permanently injured by childhood disease.
Vaccines harness our immune memory by exposing the immune system to a weakened or killed form of the infection. This lets our immune system respond and build antibodies to the pathogen, in a safe and controlled manner, without running the risks of death and serious injury that come with a full-strength, natural infection. Many of these vaccines provide life-long immunity, just like the natural illness does. Some require boosters because immunity fades over time, but this can be true of natural immunity as well.
In the case of vaccine-preventable disease, natural is not necessarily better.