It’s common knowledge that back in the day, humans didn’t live as long as we do now. In fact, an average person’s life expectancy has risen from around 48 years in the early 1900s to well over 70 now. In Japan, the average life expectancy is 83.

In addition to improved sanitation and overall better hygiene — medical advancements, antibiotics, and of course, vaccines have all aided in expanding our life spans. Before vaccines were developed, there were a handful of fatal, debilitating diseases that threatened to kill us well before we reached ripe old age; they’re depicted in the infographic below.

The Vaccine Effect

Thank goodness for vaccines, right? Polio, a debilitating disease that causes paralysis and death in children, has fortunately been wiped out completely in most countries except for a handful.

As a result of fear-mongering, however, vaccine rates in the U.S. have dropped in recent years — causing an increase in diseases that were once thought to be gone for good. For example, measles has made a comeback in New York City, where 19 cases were confirmed this year — and occurred in people who weren’t vaccinated. If you’re one of those who weren’t vaccinated, perhaps it’s time to think about getting a measles shot: “If you are unvaccinated and you come in contact with measles, there’s a 90% chance you will get it,” Jason McDonald, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Other diseases – such as mumps, whooping cough, and chicken pox, have also sprouted up in recent years, often due to a wave of celebrities and parents voicing their beliefs that vaccines cause autism and are full of toxins. According to the CDC and various studies completed in recent years, however, vaccines are entirely safe and quite essential in providing a healthy life for your children. View this map to see how vaccine-preventable outbreaks have occurred across the world since 2008.

And if we decide to let vaccine scares take over the country? Cases of more diseases might flare up again, as depicted by the infographic below. So don’t be afraid of vaccines; rather, be afraid of the diseases they prevent — which were capable of killing our ancestors far more easily and quickly.

What Could Happen if we Stop Vaccinating?