Founding father Benjamin Franklin lost a son to smallpox in 1736. Decades later, he wrote about it and urged parents to inoculate their children — a message that remains relevant to today's debate over whether parents should vaccinate their kids:
In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if the child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.
Franklin hedged his comments a bit, since the science behind inoculations in the 18th century was underdeveloped.
But the scientific research is very clear now: vaccines are safe, despite some concerns about long-debunked connections to serious medical problems, particularly autism. In 2010, The Lancet, a British medical journal, retracted a high-profile study from 1998 that falsely claimed to find a link between vaccines and autism, discrediting the one major piece of evidence vaccine skeptics cited in the past.