Why would you make your child go through the pain of getting a shot to get immunized against a vaccine? Is it worth the soreness and pain of a shot to protect them from a disease like measles? Imagine your child has an illness that compromises their immune system and they cannot be vaccinated to protect against measles. More likely than not, you don’t want your child to get measles. One of the main ways to protect them is herd immunity, which is explained by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as “when a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak” (NIAID). Herd immunity is important for people, like you ill child, who cannot receive vaccines because that gives them a source of some protection that they are unable to get from vaccines. Some of the diseases may not be too serious for some people, but when your child has an illness that is compromising their immune system, a small cold could have the potential to kill them because their immune system is already compromised. The best way to keep herd immunity high is to vaccinate your children if they can receive vaccinations. Wouldn’t you want the people around you to vaccinate their children if they have the option so that your child is protected as well?
Receiving vaccinations and following the appropriate vaccine schedule are an important part of building immunity to diseases. When people opt out of vaccinating their child, they are actually putting their child and others surrounding them at risk for infectious disease. This is because not everyone can receive all vaccinations due to allergy, age, or having a compromised immune system from other diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated…”). The decision to vaccinate a child should be based on whether you’d like your child to be more or less likely to contract an infectious disease that you could have prevented with usually a simple injection.
However, as a result of allergies, age, pregnancy, or a compromised immune system from an autoimmune disease, there are many people who cannot receive vaccinations to protect themselves from certain illnesses. The particular vaccines they cannot receive depends on why they can’t receive it. For example, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, there is information about specific vaccinations and who should not receive them. If someone has any kind of cancer, they should not receive the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated…”). These people are left vulnerable to contracting infectious diseases, especially when others around them choose not to get vaccinated.
While there are people who are unable to receive vaccines for health reasons such as allergies, there are people who choose not to get vaccinated or choose not to vaccinate their children. Some people argue that they decided not to vaccinate based on the idea that there are harmful things contained in the vaccines, and worry about some of the ingredients, such as thimerosal, despite “research into possible links between neurological conditions and thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines, [not showing] consistent, replicable relationships.” (Downs, et al. 1596) This means that the thimerosal is not causing neurological conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, like many who are against vaccinating would argue. Some choose not to vaccinate because they don’t want their child to get sick. They get this idea from the fact that the vaccine is usually an injection of a killed or weakened form of the disease. Because it is a killed/weakened form, it won’t make people sick, but it will still cause the body to produce antibodies (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 23-24). Others don’t vaccinate out of fear that their child will experience encephalopathy, which is a brain infection, or that their child will experience a severe allergic reaction. However, “a life-threatening allergic reaction to a substance in a vaccine – occurs only about once in every million vaccine doses” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25). Autism is one of the larger associated fears with vaccines and immunizations, but it isn’t the only reason people don’t vaccinate.
Some people may argue that some vaccines are unnecessary, because there are so few cases of that disease today, which, ironically, is because of vaccines being so successful to begin with. They are under the impression that because vaccines worked so well to get rid of the disease already, they don’t need to protect their children because the disease is not common any longer. For example, “the United States has very low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases, but this isn’t true everywhere in the world,” which is why if you are in the United States and can receive vaccinations, you should get them (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…If We Stopped Vaccinations”). A result of the low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases is that people think they don’t need to get the vaccines because, why should they vaccinate themselves for something they probably won’t get?
Another reason that you should get vaccinations, if you have the option, is because stopping vaccines can have negative effects. This was seen in Japan between the years of 1974 and 1979. “…About 80% of Japanese children were getting pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. That year there were only 393 cases of whooping cough in the entire country, and not a single pertussis-related death. Then immunization rates began to drop, until only about 10% of children were being vaccinated. In 1979, more than 13,000 whooping cough and 41 died. When routine vaccination was resumed, the disease numbers dropped again” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…If We Stopped Vaccinations”). The negative effects of opting out of vaccinations include the possibility of an infectious disease outbreak as well as an increase in the rate of deaths due to preventable diseases.
When there is a low herd immunity, there is more likely to be a disease outbreak because less people are protected against the disease. When there is a disease outbreak, everyone is at risk for receiving that infectious disease unless they are protected by vaccinations. This includes people who were unable to get vaccinated based on age, illnesses, or parents conscious decision not to vaccinate them. The best way to achieve a high herd immunity is to vaccinate everyone who can be vaccinated. Vaccinating people has helped rid the planet of smallpox, which is the only disease that has been completely eliminated from the planet (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…If We Stopped Vaccinations”). Continuing to vaccinate people against diseases can help us eliminate other diseases such as measles and polio, which still exist in many countries.
Vaccinating isn’t just about protecting yourself or your child, but about protecting those around them as well. If someone travels to another country, they may contract an infectious disease if they are not vaccinated. When they go back to their home, they may pass the disease onto others around them depending on who is vaccinated. If very few people are protected from that disease, there is a possibility of a disease outbreak. But, if most of the individuals are vaccinated against that disease, there will most likely not be an epidemic because there are not a lot of unprotected individuals at risk for contracting the disease. Getting a vaccine is the most effective and safest way to protect yourself and everyone around you from getting infectious diseases.
Carden, Stephanie. “Importance of Herd Immunity and Immunization.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?” 19 May 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated with These Vaccines?” 02 Dec. 2016.
Destefano, F. “Vaccines and Autism: Evidence Does Not Support a Causal Association.”Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 82.6 (2007): 756-59. Web.
Downs, Julie S., Bruine de Bruin, Wändi, & Fischhoff, Baruch . “Parents’ vaccination comprehension and decisions.” Vaccine 26.12 (2008): 1595-1607
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Community Immunity (“Herd Immunity”)” Vaccines.gov NIAID April 27, 2017.
The Vaccine War. PBS, 2010
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parents Guide to Childhood Immunizations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016