Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is Herd Immunity Important? You Bet!!!

As we live in the increasingly connected world, our everyday interactions with others also increase (surprise, surprise!!!) and our individual decisions can have a deep impact on others. This has been especially evident since last year's swine flu outbreak, when we all suddenly realized that what each of us does every day may have very real influence on our families, friends and co-workers.
For some reason, this is not so evident to many when it comes to simple vaccines. I keep hearing from many around me that they would never take the seasonal (or H1N1) flu shot, because they are strong and healthy, and it's up to those who are not to protect themselves. The same selfish attitude is also present with some parents, who refuse to vaccinate their children due to some silly and long-ago-proven-false reasons, just because they feel their kids are healthy. Unfortunately, they do not understand a simple concept of "herd immunity", in which keeping the majority vaccinated and healthy, eliminates increased risks to those who can't get vaccinated due to real health problems, or who don't respond to vaccines well.
Maybe the term itself is not the best, as I have seen comments in some on-line discussions, stating that "we will not let them turn us into a herd of animals", but the concept is very real, proven scientifically, and can one day save YOUR life (when you are 64 (!) and you don't respond to the flu vaccine as well as you do today).

Thankfully, the mainstream media is beginning to cover this issue, as it is in the recent USA Today article: Missed vaccines weaken 'herd immunity' in children

Very good explanation with some additional info can be found on the (always reliable) Respectful Insolence Blog: The price exacted by the anti-vaccine movement

We can only hope that parents and general public will soon understand this important issue.