Last updated on: 2/17/2023 | Author:

History of Vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting 29 doses of 9 vaccines (plus yearly flu and COVID-19 shots after six months old) for kids aged 0 to six. [121] No U.S. federal laws mandate vaccination, but all 50 states require certain vaccinations for children entering public schools. Most states offer medical and religious exemptions; and some states allow philosophical exemptions. [1]

The Chinese used inoculation techniques against smallpox as early as 1000 AD and similar techniques were also used in ancient Africa and Turkey. The first instance of vaccine promotion in the United States was in 1721 when Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister, encouraged smallpox vaccination in response to an outbreak. Vaccination as practiced today came into being when Edward Jenner, English physician and scientist, created the first smallpox vaccine using cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox that infects cows) and vaccinating an eight-year-old boy in 1796. Jenner’s innovation was used for 200 years, with updates, and eradicated smallpox. Read more background…


Pro & Con Arguments

Pro 1

Vaccines eradicated smallpox and have nearly eradicated other diseases, however vaccine-preventable diseases have not disappeared so mandated vaccination is still necessary.

Children are no longer vaccinated against smallpox because the disease no longer exists due to vaccination. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1948; the last case in the world was 1977 in Somalia. However, earlier in the twentieth century, there were 29,004 deaths from smallpox yearly in the United States. [74] [75]

According to the WHO, “Wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries to 6 reported cases in 2021.” The disease now only exists in two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan. [140]

Diphtheria killed 21,053 people yearly; measles killed 530,217 people yearly; mumps killed 162,344 people yearly; rubella killed 47,745 people yearly; and Hib (a bacterium that causes pneumonia and meningitis) killed 20,000 people yearly in the twentieth century United States; by 2012 each of these diseases were decreased by 99% because of vaccinations. [75]

However, the CDC notes that many vaccine-preventable diseases are still in the United States or “only a plane ride away.” Between Jan. 1, 2019 and May 17, 2019, there were 880 individual measles cases reported in 24 states (compared to 372 cases in all of 2018). Of those, 44 cases were directly imported from 12 other countries, including Philippines, Ukraine, Israel, and Thailand. According to the WHO, in Jan. 2019 alone, there were 1,802 cases of measles in Philippines, 13,760 in Ukraine, 290 in Israel, and 797 in Thailand. [76] [130] [131] [132]

UNICEF reported that, globally, 453,000 children die from rotavirus, 476,000 die from pneumococcus (the bacterium that causes pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections), 199,000 die from Hib, 195,000 die from pertussis (whooping cough), 118,000 die from the measles, and 60,000 die from tetanus each year, all vaccine-preventable diseases. [52]

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Pro 2

Vaccine mandates ensure the “herd” is protected.

According to Brian K. Lee, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Health at Drexel University, herd immunity (or community immunity) is the “state in which a large proportion of a population is able to repel an infectious disease, thereby limiting the extent to which the disease can spread from person to person.” Herd immunity is able to “occur when the population density of persons who are susceptible to infection is sufficiently low so as to minimize the likelihood of an infected individual coming in contact with a susceptible individual. Herd immunity can prevent sustained disease spread in populations, thereby protecting susceptible individuals from infection.” [146]

Children and adults who cannot be vaccinated due to age, poor health (who are immune-compromised or undergoing chemotherapy, for example), or other reasons rely on herd immunity to prevent contraction of vaccine-preventable diseases. [62]

An Apr. 2019 measles outbreak resulted in the quarantine of over 200 people who had been exposed to the measles on the campuses of the University of California at Los Angeles and California State University. Because they could not verify their vaccinations, quarantining them raised the campus’ herd immunity and blocked the spread of the disease. In 2011, 49 US states did not meet the 92-94% herd immunity threshold for pertussis (whooping cough), resulting in a 2012 outbreak that sickened 48,277 people and was the biggest outbreak since 1955. [64] [123] [124]

However, in 2005, an 18-month-old Amish girl contracted polio and spread the disease to four other unvaccinated children, but because the community met the herd immunity threshold for the disease, there was no polio outbreak. Vaccine mandates ensure that herd immunity remains high enough to protect the vulnerable. [65] [66]

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Pro 3

Vaccine mandates save children, their parents, and society time and money.

Vaccines cost less in time and money to obtain than infectious diseases cost in time off of work to care for a sick child, potential short- or long-term disability care, and medical costs. For example, children under five with the flu are contagious for about eight days, and, according to a 2012 CDC study, cost their parents an average of 11 to 73 hours of wages (about $222 to $1,456) and $300 to $4,000 in medical expenses. Children with rotavirus are contagious for up to 30 days, greatly increasing costs to parents. Children miss critical school days rich in education and social development, while being subjected to an illness. Furthermore, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or Obamacare) many vaccines are available to children and adults without copay. [67] [68] [69] [70] [71]

Taxpayers, even those without children or with vaccinated children, also pay for children who contract vaccine-preventable diseases. A 2018 study found that each case of measles in Arkansas cost the health department $47,962. Between Jan. 1 and May 20, 2019, there were 880 cases of measles in 24 states, costing taxpayers an estimated $42.2 million. [125] [126]

The CDC estimates that vaccinated children born between 1994 and 2018 have yielded net savings of $406 billion in direct costs and $1.9 trillion in societal costs, which includes money saved by preventing lost productivity due to disability and early death. The United States saves about $27 per $1 invested in DTaP vaccination, and $13 per $1 spent on MMR vaccination. [80] [128]

Globally, UNICEF estimates that $6.2 billion could be saved in treatment costs if vaccines were more prominent in the world’s poorest countries. According to the International Vaccines Access Center, $62.9 billion could be saved by providing Hib, pneumococcal, and rotavirus vaccinations to the 73 poorest countries: $1.4 billion in treatment costs, $300 million in lost caretaker wages, $6.2 billion in lifetime productivity loss due to disability, and $55 billion in lifetime productivity loss because of death. American taxpayers subsidize aid to these countries. [52 [81]

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Con 1

Vaccine mandates infringe upon constitutionally protected religious freedoms.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” [91]

In the unanimous 1939 ruling for Cantwell v. Connecticut, the US Supreme Court held that state and local governments’ infringement upon religious freedom is also unconstitutional. [92]

Several religions oppose vaccines and mandatory vaccinations. Some Christian Scientists consider vaccinations against their religion because founder Mary Baker Eddy stated that the “calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventative of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method… the ‘perfect Love’ that ‘casteth out fear’ is a sure defense.” [93]

Amish communities do not view all vaccinations as “necessary” and some believe that vaccinations weaken the immune system. [78] [94]

The Church of Illumination states that “the teachings of the Church unequivocally affirm that injections of vaccines and inoculations are a violation of these biblical teachings… Immunizations and vaccinations are a form of blood pollution because they have devastating effects on the regeneration of the soul that each Church member seeks to attain.” [95]

The Universal Family Church believes that parents should decide whether their children should be vaccinated and that “God intends the health decisions of individuals should… be honored by all authorities.” [96]

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Con 2

Mandates are not the most effective way to ensure vaccine-hesitant parents vaccinate their children.

Because a high percentage of kids will already be vaccinated, or their parents are agreeable to additional vaccines, state school policies are necessarily directed toward parents and caregivers who are vaccine hesitant or whose children are under- or unvaccinated.

A 2019 study found “Vaccine-hesitant parents who are on the fence far outnumber vaccine refusers; therefore, counseling this group might be more effective,” because mandates are not the best way to change peoples’ minds about vaccines. The study found that “Practical tips for addressing parental vaccine hesitancy in primary care include starting early, presenting vaccination as the default approach, building trust, being honest about side effects, providing reassurance on a robust vaccine safety system, focusing on protection of the child and community, telling stories, and addressing pain.” [139]

The study concluded family physicians are a front-line resource in battling vaccine hesitancy: “Reasons behind vaccine hesitancy are complex and encompass more than just a knowledge deficit. As a trusted source of information on vaccines, family physicians play a key role in driving vaccine acceptance.” [139]

People of color and LGBTQ+ people have high rates of healthcare distrust due to current and historical medical mistreatment and discrimination, which can translate into vaccine hesitancy. As the Commonwealth Fund explained, “The medical establishment has a long history of mistreating Black Americans — from gruesome experiments on enslaved people to the forced sterilizations of Black women and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study that withheld treatment from hundreds of Black men for decades to let doctors track the course of the disease.” These concerns have continued into the modern medicine era and are applicable to other communities of color, including Hispanics and Native Americans. Offering education about vaccines would be a more effective and kind policy than mandates. [141] [142] [143] [144] [145]

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Con 3

The government should not intervene in personal medical choices.

Medical decisions for children should be left to parents or caregivers. Barbara Loe Fisher, Co-founder of National Vaccine Information Center, stated, “If the State can tag, track down and force citizens against their will to be injected with biological products… there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the State can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.” [89]

Ron Paul, former US Representative (R-TX), stated, “intimately personal medical decisions should not be made by government…. Freedom over one’s physical person is the most basic freedom of all, and people in a free society should be sovereign over their own bodies. When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.” [90]

Further, some vaccines contain ingredients some parents consider immoral or otherwise objectionable; mandates infringe on those sincerely held beliefs. For example, some DTaP/IPV/Hib combination, Hep A/Hep B combination, HepA, MMR, and chickenpox vaccines are cultivated in cells from two fetuses aborted in the 1960s (listed as MRC-5 and WI-38 on package inserts). The Catholic Church, in a report about using vaccines made using cells from aborted fetuses, indicated that “there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines” to avoid the “evil” of actively or passively participating in anything that involves abortion. [97]

And some vaccines for DTaP, Hep A, RV, Hib, HPV, IPV, flu, MMR, and chickenpox are made using animal products like chicken eggs, bovine casein, insect cells, Cocker Spaniel cells, pig gelatin, and cells from African Green monkeys, making those vaccines conflict with some vegetarian and vegan philosophies. Others consider it problematic that some vaccines are produced using human albumin, a blood plasma protein.

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Did You Know?
1. All 50 states require vaccinations for children entering public schools even though no mandatory federal vaccination laws exist. All 50 states issue medical exemptions. [1]
2. In 1855 Massachusetts passed the first US state law mandating vaccinations for schoolchildren, followed by New York (1862), Connecticut (1872), Indiana (1881), and Arkansas (1882). [5] [6]
3. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that childhood immunization prevented about 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 early deaths of children born between 1994 and 2018. [128]
4. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “most childhood vaccines are 90%-99% effective in preventing disease.” [43]
5. Between Jan. 1 and May 20, 2019, there were 880 cases of measles in 24 states, costing taxpayers an estimated $42.2 million. [125] [126]


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