What is Herd Immunity? How Does it Effect Me and My Choices?

Here’s something wonderful about vaccines: if you are vaccinated against  a disease, your likelihood of catching and carrying that disease on to another person decreases anywhere from 75% to 90%, depending on the disease and it’s communication method. For the individual, this is good; but when a majority of the population is vaccinated, this slows down a disease’s ability to reproduce and spread to people who cannot be vaccinated (babies under a year old, people on certain medications, etc.) or the immune-compromised. That ‘s the basis of Herd Immunity, but here’s a video explaining it in more technical terms:

As I said in the What are Vaccines page, this is the method through which smallpox was eliminated as an international threat to public health: vaccinations cut off its route of spreading and the disease slowly died out. This can happen to nearly every disease on earth if we can develop, distribute and adapt vaccines faster than they can mutate. in fact, we’re starting to: For over a decade, measles cases have been on the decline thanks to diligent international vaccination efforts from 2000 to 2009.

And then Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy ruined it all. You see, herd immunity can work backwards too, with devastating results. If a previously well-vaccinated community starts losing its community protection, it puts everyone at risk. When a person carrying measles goes into an environment where a low percentage of people are vaccinated, it will spread through them and compromise the health of many. Let’s look at the Disney outbreak: An infected individual goes to Disneyland, one of the most crowded places on earth. Soon fifty one children have measles-like symptoms after they leave the Happiest place on Earth. From there, 182 cases emerge in 18 states linked to the one bad day for Disney.

This would not have happened in the year 2000. Measles was eliminated in America, but then parents started fearing side effects over the big picture of Herd immunity. The HYPOTHETICAL side effect of Autism, one that poses no life-threatening complications. And then exemption for personal reasons were offered, and what once was an 80-90% immunization rate started receding to unstable levels. diseases may spread faster if people can’t get vaccinations, but they will spread even faster if people can, but choose not to.

Let’s be clear here: I’m not saying doctors should turn away parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, I’m not saying vaccinations should be mandatory and enforced or that anti-vaxxer children should be locked away in social isolation (after all, that would be too much like autism, and to anti-vaxxer parents that is a fate worse than death) because I believe in a free country. But… this is not a personal choice. This is reckless endangerment of the lives of hundreds, mostly babies under a year old. Based on lies, pseudoscience and ablest culture. A “choice” to not vaccinate is the choice to let diseases slowly, painfully kill innocent strangers. Let that soak in.

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