I have a brother who is in the process of starting immunizations for his six-week-old daughter. He was told that they are bad: That they contain mercury and formaldehyde, that it is just the drug companies trying to make big money, that polio isn't around anymore, that the chicken pox vaccine isn't lifelong, and on and on. Any suggestions on how to answer some of these questions? I feel that vaccines are important. We haven't had these bad illnesses around so this generation doesn't seem to realize how important they are.
The issue of vaccine safety comes up often in pediatric practices, so I'm glad to address it. I completely agree with your opinion—most of us don't know how bad it used to be. Deadly and frightening diseases of yesteryear have been so dramatically reduced by vaccinations that most parents are too young to remember the pain and loss they used to bring.
Unfortunately, none of the diseases we currently provide vaccines against have been eradicated worldwide. Without continued vaccination, any or all of these diseases could make a comeback. We rely on vaccines not only to protect individual children, but to create a "herd immunity." There are always children (and adults) that do not become immune from vaccines or who are too sick to receive them. If enough of the surrounding community is immune, however, it becomes unlikely there will be any infectious person to spread disease to an unimmune and vulnerable individual.
I believe that each of us has a moral obligation to protect those around us.