The Corral: Vaccination

“So why should you care if I don’t vaccinate my children?”

I coud answer this question with the fact I’m a human being and don’t want to see dead kids. But the answer is much more personal than that and is why I give very little quarter on this subject. To put it simply, the answer is herd immunity and my nearest and dearest.

Herd Immunity is a simple concept – if you never meet someone who carries an infectious disease you will not catch that infectious disease and it therefore won’t harm you. Also if no one carrying an infectious disease meets someone to pass it on to you can wipe it out, while if they all pass it on you will get an epidemic. This should be obvious – and the rest of it’s just maths to model where the thresholds are. But Herd Immunity only really protects those who aren’t protected by vaccienes directly – why is it personal to me?

I have a friend with no natural immunity to measles. She’s been vaccinated repeatedly and caught it three times so far and will catch it every time she comes into contact with it until either measles (with its 0.2% death rate and 0.5% serious brain damage rate) or something else kills her. Her only defence against measles is herd immunity so an attempt to undermine herd immunity is an attempt to kill or cripple the life of one of my friends.

My baby sister has a heart transplant which means that she will be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life. Her only serious protection from a lot of diseases is herd immunity so an attempt to undermine herd immunity is an attempt to kill or cripple my family.

But it’s even more personal than that for me although fortunately I don’t remember it. Whooping Cough has a 0.5% death rate for those under 1 year old and for those too young to remember there was a whooping cough vaccine scare in the 1970s and 1980s so I caught it when I was too young to be vaccinated. In short an anti-vaccination scare threatened my life by undermining herd immunity.

My friends, my family, and me. All things I care deeply about. And all things any attempt to undermine vaccinations either has or does threaten the life of (and I’m just scratching the surface here). This is why I take even internet debates about vaccination so seriously and intend to win, at least with the bystanders.