Does herd immunity mean my child doesn't need to be vaccinated?

A lot of people have a false security based on their understanding of herd immunity. The common misconception among parents is that most people in their communities are immunized, so their children don’t have to be. But this is not true. For herd immunity to work, more than 90 percent of people in your community must be immunized. However, so many people have leaned on other’s immunity that we’re way below that mark in a growing number of areas when it comes to the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

That’s a matter of great concern. Measles, for example, is highly contagious and can cause serious complications or even death. This viral illness had been basically eliminated in the Unites States by the year 2000. But because fewer children have been getting vaccinated since then, we had an outbreak in 2014 that affected 288 young people. Serious complications lead to 15 percent of them staying in the hospital until they recovered.

Further, measles and other preventable diseases are not entirely wiped out worldwide. They are all too common in some developing countries. These diseases are really “just a plane ride away.” This fact increases the chance that your child could be exposed to a disease that someone brings to your community from another country.

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Community, or "herd," immunity is defined as a small critical portion of a community being protected against diseases because the majority of that community is immunized, resulting in little opportunity for an outbreak. At-risk groups who sometimes are opted out from vaccines include infants, pregnant women and otherwise immunocompromised individuals.

In order for herd immunity to be effective, eligible individuals need to adhere to the recommended vaccine schedule, thus protecting the entire community.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.