Parents have a responsibility not only to their own children, but to their communities—it’s only by achieving a very high level of population immunity that outbreaks can be prevented. Vaccination is particularly crucial for children with cancer and other diseases that cause immunosuppression. They cannot be vaccinated safely, but are at high risk of severe consequences if they are infected—and, thus, they depend on the community’s so-called “herd immunity” for protection against a potentially fatal illness.
While some parents continue to express concern about a possible link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders, the original report claiming this connection has been debunked and retracted. A large number of carefully designed follow up studies have been carried out, and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence shows no evidence for such a link. That’s why it continues to be so important to get the word out to parents: Have your kids vaccinated.
Emily Oster has written a terrific post for FiveThirtyEight about vaccinations and why we should aim for 100 percent vaccination. You may recall CauseScience’s previous post about herd immunity here. Oster puts together a great explanation for why we should vaccinate as many children as we can. Oster supports this with recent data from measles and pertussis and puts together numbers and stats to make her points. Great piece!
From a public health standpoint, this data argues for continuing to push to increase vaccination rates and stem any declines. A 95 percent vaccination rate in a state doesn’t mean every place in the state is at 95 percent. At rates even a bit lower, we start to see increases in whooping cough and measles cases. And remember that parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids are also putting other people’s kids at risk: Many of the victims of whooping cough are babies who are too young to be vaccinated.