Vaccine Misconceptions: Herd Immunity Explained

Vaccines have been protecting humanity from the dangers and discomforts of disease for hundreds of years. Ever since Edward Jenner discovered the arm-to-arm technique involved in smallpox inoculations, we have reaped the benefits of vaccines (borne of ingenious scientific developments throughout the years) in the form of longer, healthier lives and lower infant and child mortality rates.

As such, our society has had to work less hard to fight off infection. Herd immunity acts as a protective barrier: since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it is much more difficult for a virus or disease to spread from person to person. This protects those individuals who are particularly vulnerable to attack, such as people with compromised immune systems or severe allergies, infants who are too young to be inoculated, and the elderly.

A Dangerous Change In Vaccination Rates

Herd immunity only exists if that majority continues to receive their vaccinations, and unfortunately, that number is shrinking. While a few people had been choosing to file vaccine exemptions based on medical or religious reasons, it wasn’t enough to compromise the safety herd immunity offers. Now, however, personal exemptions inspired by a fraudulent study posted 20 years ago (that was largely based on non-peer reviewed anecdotal evidence) are becoming more and more common.

The fear and panic created by the suggestion that there was a connection between the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) and autism have caused many to refuse vaccinations for their children; so much so that herd immunity rates have now fallen below the safety threshold. This compromises the health of those that are physically unable to receive their inoculations and allows deadly viruses and diseases to spread much easier throughout populations. The only way to safeguard against these risks — and keep herd immunity in effect — is to vaccinate yourself and your children.

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