Thursday, January 06, 2005

Vaccinations: A sad miscalculation

Brian O'Connor has posted a very nice piece on the consequences of parents foregoing vaccinations in their children. Most people don't understand that the reason many parents can get away with not vaccinating their children without their children becoming ill is because the vast majority of the population is vaccinated. When this is true, the unvaccinated benefit from what is called "herd immunity," in which there are just too few vulnerable people to allow disease to gain a foothold. Essentially, these parents are enjoying most of the benefits of mass vaccination without accepting even the very minimal risk of complications vaccinations pose. This situation is not sustainable, however, when more and more parents decide to forego vaccinations for their children. When the percentage of unvaccinated rises beyond a tiny minority, the risk of disease reentering the population skyrockets. Ironically, in the U.S., this seems to be more of a problem among the affluent and educated than among the poor. Also, much of the anti-vaccination hysteria is fed by alties, even though many of their fears (for instance, of autism) are unfounded. Bottom line, for childhood vaccinations, the enormous benefits far outweigh the very slight risks.

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