I was sitting in a meeting today and the
überboss told us all to get the flu vaccine down the hall. She
then told us that we must get the vaccine to protect her from the
flu because she was not going to get a shot herself (she cited the many
dangers of the shot). She told us that she believed in herd immunity,
and that if we all got shots then she would be safe.
Herd immunity is a very real phenomenon in epidemiology and is responsible
for the eradication of small pox. The essence of herd immunity is to protect a
population from a passing disease by only vaccinating a high percentage of a
the population. You can't expect to vaccinate everybody:
As long as a large portion of the population is vaccinated, the germ will
have a hard time finding hosts. The World Health Organization recommends
grade schools vaccinate at least 85% of their students in order to eliminate the
threat of a breakout. This is a relatively high herd immunity level.
Each disease has it's own threshold; recommended herd immunity levels can
range from 50% to 90%.
Some believe the concept of herd immunity is flawed!
Why? My above explanation of herd immunity sounded so... great!
For starters, herd immunity exploits the ineffectiveness of modern vaccines
to justify its effectiveness. The more effective vaccines are, the less
effective herd immunity is. Researchers know that a particular vaccination will
fail for many individuals in the population, yet they insist as many members
of the population as possible take the vaccine (see above). Also, there have
been reports of populations with 100% reported vaccination still enduring an
outbreak of a disease.
I'm still undecided.