Randall Christison, a San Diego attorney, recalls his childhood/ Photo credit: Nic McVicker, KPBS

When Randall Christison was a child, he was sick with whooping cough and knew a boy down the street who died from the measles.

This was the reality of American life before vaccines. It’s a reality he doesn’t want his country to revisit.

“Any person who does not vaccinate his or her children is just engaging in child abuse,” said Christison, a 71-year-old semi-retired litigator in downtown San Diego.

The problem, say immunologists, is that voices like Christison’s are growing fainter. They’re being drowned out by the opinions of younger parents who grew up in an era without such epidemics.

The horrors that vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio once visited upon large swaths of the American populace are nearly forgotten. There once was a near-unanimous belief that the infinitesimally small risk vaccines posed was far preferable to the enormous risk these diseases posed. That belief has now been replaced by a debate over whether those vaccines’ risks are worth preventing near invisible diseases.

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