Unvaccinated kids hurt the people in your community

It goes without saying that unvaccinated kids get more vaccine-preventable illnesses. For instance a 2010 study from Kaiser Permanente showed that children who hadn’t received pertussis vaccine were 23 times more likely than vaccinated children to get pertussis.

But there’s another consequence of not getting vaccines. It hurts your child, sure. But it also can hurt other people in your community.

Vaccines are not perfect. Not everyone who receives a vaccine gets 100% protection; and some people in a community are too young to be vaccinated, or have health conditions that prevent vaccination. Those that aren’t immune depend on what’s called “herd immunity” for protection. If just about everyone else is immune, then the diseases don’t circulate, and even those who are not immune are unlikely to come in contact with the disease.

This kind of protection — the herd effect — only works if just about everyone is immune. As soon as the herd fails to maintain a high percentage of immunity, more disease circulates, and more people get sick. Not only do those who chose not to vaccinate get vaccinated get sick, but also those who couldn’t get vaccinated, or those in whom the vaccine didn’t work.

This was just illustrated in a study reported in Pediatrics, looking at non-medical vaccine exemptions in California. Researchers looked at geographic areas where there were clusters to non-vaccinated families, and compared that to geographic areas with clusters of pertussis cases — and as expected, the two overlapped. If you live in an area with a higher proportion of non-vaccinated people, you’ve got a higher risk of picking up pertussis. This risk is increase even if you and your own family are vaccinated.

Though the vast majority of children nationwide receive their vaccines, a small number of vocal pro-disease, anti-vaccine propagandists has managed to scare many parents into becoming hesitant about vaccinations. And the diseases are coming back. Don’t fall for it. Protect your kids, protect yourself, protect your community. Get those vaccines, on time and on schedule.

Roy Benaroch is a pediatrician who blogs at The Pediatric Insider. He is also the author of Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth through Preschool: A Parent’s Guide and A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • Pat Brown

    Let us hope that the tin-hat brigades of anti-vax loonies don’t swamp this article like the last covering this topic. How can so many people who are so incredibly misinformed be so SURE of their disproven “science”, while children die or are damaged for life by preventable illnesses? I have often thought a time-travel through history would be fun, but then I remember these diseases and the lack of antibiotics and sanitation….and figure I like the 21st century just fine…

    • EE Smith

      “Let us hope that the tin-hat brigades of anti-vax loonies don’t swamp this article like the last covering this topic.”

      For anyone who wants a rehash, go over to Claire McCarthy’s article “If You Believe In Vaccines, Please Speak Up” which is still in the right-hand sidebar under “Past 6 months” … and wade through the moonbattery which flooded in. Don’t forget your hip boots though.

      Or if you’re not game, imagine a 495-comment post with multiple iterations of “You full of it! you sound like a vaccine pushing pharma Shill!” in reply to every sane comment.


      • Pat Brown

        “MERCURY! Secret Conferences!! AUTISM! We have PROOF….”
        Over. AND. Over…..
        When I want facts, I ignore peer reviewed journals and their replicated studies and listen to a B-grade former starlet with a high school education instead.

    • Chris Culpepper


      I read through your 19 posts on this website. It is clear that you claim Christianity as your religion.

      Interesting that someone who claims Christianity, would name call…lol, is that what Christ taught? I don’t think so, at least not in my version of the Bible.

      Further, you believe in God, heaven and that Jesus Christ was the son of God, etc. But there are countless peer-reviewed documents put forth by science, which assert that there is no God and that we all came from dust, then water, then algae, then tadpoles, etc, but I assume you don’t believe any of that – so does that make you a “loony”?

      Finally, you also bashed our President (in a prior post), by stating that he is not a Christian. While I can’t state his religious beliefs, since only he and God know for sure, what I can state is that he attends church, has enrolled his children in a Quaker school and was raised Christian. His wife also does not wear a traditional Muslim covering, so I assume she is probably a Christian as well. Not that it matters what his belief system is, just that he tries to do his best in his current job.

      So I don’t understand how you can bear false witness against the President, when you have never met him, don’t know what’s in his heart and should have come to the conclusion that he is a Christian (as we judge by actions and not words). Why you bore false witness, and broke one of the ten commandments as well as one of the two commandments from Jesus, I don’t know. Could it be a little racism? Or just partisan silliness.

      Maybe before you post again, you can be a little more thoughtful and not write unless you have actually read the Bible, followed its teachings and treated your brother with respect. Your posts are the reasons that most non-Christians, think right-wing white Christians are racist, thoughtless and illiterate.

      Remember when we judge others, we are also judged…make sure you judge correctly and with honor.

      • EE Smith

        Creepy stalker is creepy.

        • Chris Culpepper

          lol… not. I just don’t like people who put others down…

        • Pat Brown

          ….and misinformed!!! What IS IT about this subject that brings them out of the woodwork???

  • Chiked

    Another article on vaccinations….I don’t even know where to begin but sir the herd immunity argument is a myth. Give it up.

    What has really set the vaccination movement back a generation is the increasing number of vaccines thrust upon the public in an era when big pharma should be properly termed big government. My solution…simply the schedule and get big pharma out of it. No one trusts these guys anymore.

  • ninguem

    I’m makin’ popcorn, anybody want some?

  • Alissa

    Ugh. I don’t even know where to start with anti-vaxxers. You’d think that once Wakefield had his “study” completely retracted and his license revoked, that’d put an end to the tin foil hat conspiracy theories. But no, now people parrot the words of a former Playboy model who got her degree from the “University of Google.”

    Honestly, I think anyone who is considering not vaccinating their child should be forced to spend a few weeks or months in less fortunate parts of the world where vaccine preventable diseases such as pertussis, measles, and polio still regularly kill and maim children. Or better yet, they should just move there and raise their children there, since they seem to think that getting natural immunity from experiencing the diseases themselves is healthier than preventing them with vaccines, and obviously dying or being permanently disabled is much more preferable than getting autism (since they believe vaccines cause autism, WHICH THEY DON’T).

    • MissMeg

      “… [V]accination led to a 40-fold enhancement of B. parapertussis colonization in the lungs of mice. Though the mechanism behind this increased colonization was not specifically elucidated, it is speculated to involve specific immune responses skewed or dampened by the acellular vaccine, including cytokine and antibody production during infection. Despite this vaccine being hugely effective against B. pertussis, which was once the primary childhood killer, these data suggest that the vaccine may be contributing to the observed rise in whooping cough incidence over the last decade by promoting B. parapertussis infection….”

      Quoted from Penn State’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics site:


  • bill10526

    The anti-vaccine people are wrong. Their arguments have even been scientifically tested and found to be wrong. For example, data from California showed increases in autism while mercury was being removed from the vaccine preservatives.

    Cotton Mather of fame from the Salem Witch trial was a distinguished intellectual. Janet Reno kept a woman in solitary confinement for six months before the woman broke in the woman in the Dade County Fl. daycare case. Ms. Reno, a graduate of Harvard, then presented the testimony to a jury as being reliable.when there was no physical evidence supporting it. When she was shohn the errors in her case by Frontline producers, she said that she didn’t care at all. A man was rotting in jail based on her errors and she just didn’t care a wit!

    So calling the anti-vaccines people nuts or goofs doesn’t explain the phenomenon. And, believe me, I despise their actions too.

    And what’s with Ms. Merkel of Germany? She has a degree in Physics and went bonkers when a nuclear facility in Japan was overwhelmed by a 120 ft. high tsunami. Germany has a small sea coast and … ..

  • http://warmsocks.wordpress.com/ WarmSocks

    Great. All of my children are vaccinated. I have written posts in favor of immunizations. HOWEVER, doctors on one side and anti-vaxers on the other both dig in their heels and cry, “the science supports my side of the argument” without actually citing studies. Kudos to you for linking to a few studies, but those studies don’t really address the arguments we keep hearing from anti-vaxers.

    I have seven friends who choose not to have their children immunized. None of them are Wakefield fans. They refuse vaccines because “they are made with aborted fetal cells.” I’d love to see a physician address this subject.

    • http://www.pediatricinsider.com/ Roy Benaroch MD

      Plenty of physicians have addressed the “aborted fetus” canard, many many times. You can start here: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-other-anti-vaccinationists/.

      Viruses used in some vaccine products are indeed grown in cell cultures that were originally derived from aborted tissue in the 1960s. No cells, and certainly not “aborted cells” nor their decades of descendants, are found in vaccines.

  • Chiked

    The primary reason why the herd immunity theory is a myth is that vaccine-induced immunity is passive and temporary (2 to 10 years) at best. It is why we constantly have to give boosters against diseases that we were all supposedly immunized against as children e.g. MMR. If the herd immunity theory were true, then the millions of adults who have not had their boosters would be responsible for outbreaks all over the country but we don’t see that.

    Not sure a polio outbreak cannot be cited as support for the herd immunity theory. The polio vaccine does not prevent the transmission of the virus.

    More vaccines would normally be considered good until you start examining the risks of injecting children with mercury or aluminum. It was a well intentioned plan to vaccinate all children against polio that we inadvertently infected them with the SV40 virus. No matter the media spin, vaccines have risks….some of which we will not realize till decades later.

    Lastly any public health initiative should NEVER be in the hands of a for profit company. Their goals and the needs of the public will never meet.

Most Popular