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.
Hat tip to Amy Webb and Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog for pointing this out.