Question: “If other people are vaccinated, and you’re so sure that vaccinations work, why do you care if I vaccinate my kids? Isn’t it my choice?”
Dr. LaSalle: As we’ve learned with the novel Coronavirus Pandemic, we are all in this together. My actions impact your risk and vice versa. If we all take steps to keep each other safe, we will fare better as a society and can significantly reduce the amount of illness and death that we suffer as a people.
We don’t have a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 virus yet, but the same holds true, even for illnesses that we DO have vaccines to protect against. Most of our vaccines are highly effective but NONE of our vaccines are 100% effective. The measles vaccine, for example, is about 97% effective after two doses, which is really good. But, some people will not develop an adequate immune response after vaccination. And some people, for reasons of age, allergy to components of the vaccine, or immune compromise, cannot get this immunization, which is a live-attenuated vaccine.
Measles is SO contagious, with on person being able to infect up to 18 others, that we are all at increased risk of contracting the virus and developing complications of the illness, if the large majority of us (at least 95% of us) aren’t immunized.
This is what we saw in 2018 and 2019 when immunization rates in certain communities and geographic areas dropped below that 95% threshold level. Measles made a roaring comeback.
The protection of those who can’t be vaccinated by vaccinating those of us who can, is called Herd Immunity or Community Immunity. Essentially, we are creating a bubble of protection around those who are at risk, so that the virus can’t get to them. But if the community doesn’t vaccinate to an adequate degree, those kids with leukemia and pregnant women and newborn babies, for example, are at high risk of contracting and dying from these vaccine-preventable diseases.