How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Affects Herd Immunity

People make calculated decisions every day. You want that piece of cake? The benefit is sweet satiety and the risk is on your hips. You drive a car every day. The benefits lie in getting to and from where you need to be, but there is an inherent risk of danger on the road. You have decided that the risks are worth the benefits for these and many other daily decisions.  Deciding whether, or not, to vaccinate your child is no different, but there are dissentions between some parents and the medical community on this issue. Most parents are concerned about doing what’s best for their children’s health, but what is that best thing? There are intelligent and caring people on both sides of the vaccination debate.

Just as there are risks in living life, itself, there are risks in getting vaccines, or any other substance that one puts in the body. There have been instances of vaccine-related injuries and death, but they are rare.It is these untoward instances, however, that fuel a persistent skepticism among parents. This is an understandable fear, but are they being short-sighted? The danger of death or disability from the disease itself far outweighs the risk of the vaccines.Fears of disease may be undervalued for parents due to the fact that the majority of children in this country, and in fact 85% of the world’s population, have been immunized against vaccine-controlled infectious diseases, thus reducing the incidence of potentially infectious contacts. 

The reduced incidence of these illnesses among populations who have higher percentages of vaccinated people is known as “herd immunity”, and although decried by some anti-vaccine advocates, it is exactly what is protecting their un vaccinated children. The more people are immunized, the less chance a person will be exposed to the disease. The name is a little misleading, because people are not passively immunized by living with ones who are. It’s a numbers game;  the more people are immunized, the fewer incidences of infection, and vice versa, which is borne out by statistics. Unfortunately, in our shrinking world, herd immunity can be compromised by global travel, influxes of un vaccinated individuals, and an increasing number of parents who are getting exemptions from immunizations for their school age children. As was mentioned previously, the less people in the community (herd) are vaccinated, the greater the risk of contracting vaccine-controlled illnesses.

Why are parents so afraid of getting their children vaccinated? The most alarming and most highly publicized concern about vaccines was autism. In 1998, global panic ensued after a paper was published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and 12 co-authors in the medical journal The Lancet, warning about the perceived association of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. Multiple controlled studies have been subsequently performed since then and have proven that there is no correlation. In 2010, the article was retracted amidst evidence pointing to fraudulent acts involving the selection of patients and altered study results.This fudging of the figures was allegedly done to accommodate lawyers who subsidized the testing and were seeking to capitalize on the lawsuits of parents believing their child’s autism was caused by vaccines.

Despite definitive evidence to the contrary, some people remain fearful. Concerns about the additives in vaccines and the vaccines themselves causing the illnesses they are designed to prevent have been voiced by concerned parents,also, but they have been explained through scientific research.

Smallpox has been eradicated through immunizations, and polio is well on its way. Don’t allow bloated fears to overshadow the benefits of protecting your child, and others around them, who may be unable to receive vaccines due to age, immuno compromise, cancer, or a sensitivity to the vaccine. It’s not just about our own children, we have a responsibility to everyone.  Herd immunity can’t protect anyone if people don’t get vaccinated.


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