Protecting Public Health
The best way to improve overall public health is to keep people from getting sick in the first place. Immunizations do a great job of preventing epidemics of dangerous diseases such as measles, mumps and polio that used to regularly sweep through communities.
We're all in this together — your children, the rest of your family and all of the other people you see every day. You may not realize how much you rely on the good judgment of other parents to keep your kids safe. Children who are not immunized put not only themselves at risk, but also increase the danger for others. When we work together, we protect ourselves and one another from serious illness, and make these diseases increasingly rare.
Safety In Numbers Isn't Good Enough
Some people mistakenly believe that you don't need to vaccinate your baby because so many other people have had their immunizations. It's called relying on "herd immunity," and is only effective when nearly all of the other community members are immune. But hundreds of thousands of people don't have full immunity because they cannot receive certain vaccinations (including HIV patients, young babies who are not yet fully vaccinated, people undergoing chemotherapy and children on steroids for asthma).
Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because no one you know has become sick from a vaccine-preventable disease. The bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases still exist, and it is only by working together that they are kept at bay.
It is important to remember that in our increasingly mobile society, diseases are just a plane ride away. When people lose their commitment to universal vaccinations, regions can experience resurgences of preventable diseases.
In early 2008, more than 127 cases of measles were reported in the U.S., scattered across 15 states. Outbreaks that required massive control efforts in Arizona, California and elsewhere were traced to travel to and from western Europe. Only six of the people in the U.S. who became infected with measles during this outbreak had been vaccinated, all the others were either below the recommended vaccination age, or had parents who refused vaccination.
Vaccinated Yet Vulnerable
While vaccines are very effective at preventing disease, no medication is 100 percent effective. Fortunately, most people who get vaccinated do get full protection from disease. However, a very small percentage of people who are vaccinated may not attain full immunity from the disease and may still be vulnerable if exposed.
Just as you count on others not to knowingly expose you to dangerous illnesses, they rely on you. We must each do our parts to limit everyone's exposure, and that means getting vaccinated on time, every time.