Our View: Vaccinations are not just about you

Getting vaccinated protects others as well.

Getting vaccinated against common infectious diseases is just good common sense, for the vast majority of people.

But plenty of people dissent from that view. For various reasons (mostly not based on science) they decide not to get their kids vaccinated.

The decision not to get vaccinated is often seen as a personal choice, as a matter of individual choice.

It’s not.

Firstly, it’s almost always a choice being made on behalf of children too young to make up their own minds.

Chicken pox, the measles, rubella – these used to be considered “childhood diseases” because it was almost impossible to get through childhood without contracting them.

Now a whole generation has missed out on that experience, but feels like it’s fine to make the decision to be exposed to a misery-inducing, occasionally fatal disease for their offspring.

Second, and just as important, is the concept of herd immunity.

Remember how getting vaccinated is common sense for the vast majority?

There are a tiny number of people who can’t get vaccinated, because of serious allergies or immune disorders. They remain vulnerable to infectious diseases, and rely on the rest of us getting our shots to protect them. They can’t get chicken pox or the mumps if it isn’t circulating in the community.

That goes double for the measles, which is amazingly infectious.

Finally, we’re seeing an interesting trend as the measles outbreak spreads from the U.S. up into Canada.

Teenagers whose parents chose not to get them vaccinated are sneaking out to get their shots. It turns out that while their parents may have opted out, the kids for whom the decision was made are starting to have their own ideas about what’s best for them, and for their communities.

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