The herd immunity myth

May 27th, 2009 by | Permalink

Herd immunity has its limitations. Photo via Sura Nualpradid.

Every few years, I write on the very important topic of immunizing your children on time. As new reports and news stories become available, it allows me the opportunity to advocate for a very important cause – child vaccinations.

In recent years, well meaning parents enlightened and emboldened by mere conjecture and rumors have started to reject and refuse life saving immunizations for their children. Science concludes that much of the decisions to not vaccinate children is based on misguided trends and misinformation.

Much of these rumors started with outspoken celebrities, because they’re so much smarter than everyday people don’tchya know? Celebrities love selling parents on the demerits of vaccinations as the root of all evil, i.e.; Autism. Never mind that scientist after scientist has completely refuted this claim, parents are so afraid that their kids might turn out to be freaks, that they’re willing to make these hasty decisions in fear and loathing often relying on a false sense of security that “herd immunity” will prevail. Recent outbreaks of various, once eradicated or nearly eradicated diseases have only furthered the lack of evidence to support the herd immunity theory.

The problem is now becoming so serious; it may only be a matter of time before courts step in and order parents to protect their kids, much like they did in Minnesota when a mother refused chemo for her 13 year old son, when there was a 95% that he would be cured with the treatment.

The following will be published in Pediatrics next month…

Before a vaccine was available, whooping cough was a major cause of childhood illness and death in the U.S., but with the introduction of a vaccine in the 1940s, the number of cases fell from approximately 200,000 a year to an all-time low of 1,010 in 1976. Since then, however, the number of whooping cough cases has been steadily increasing, reaching 25,827 in 2004; the highest since 1959. Experts believe this trend could be due in part to the rising number of parents who refuse some or all of the recommended immunizations for their children—a theory confirmed by a recent study.

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