A lot of people might look at the anti-vax folks and wonder why it matters if those folks don’t get their kids vaccinated. If their kids get sick because they aren’t protected, it’s no skin off anyone else’s nose, right? Wrong. A new study shows exactly the opposite: vaccinating kids protects the entire community.
Almost fifty Hutterite communities in Canada took part in a study that has pretty much proven the “herd immunity” theory in which vaccinating a portion of community (or herd) protects the unvaccinated members as well. “This is quite a definitive study, and it took a Herculean effort,” said Dr. Carolyn B. Bridges, a flu expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “My hat’s off to them.”
The Hutterites, like the Amish and Mennonites, mostly keep to themselves in close-knit farming communities in western Canada. This makes them ideal test subjects for studies like this. In half the colonies, children ages 3 to 15 were given flu shots; in the other half they were given a hepatitis A vaccine as a placebo. Less than 5 percent of adults and children in the colonies that received the flu vaccine caught the flu, but more than 10 percent did in the communities that received the placebo.
This translates into a 60% “protective effect” for the community at large, according to the study. Furthermore, although no responsible doctor or scientist would ever suggest such a thing, Dr. Bridges noted that the implications of the study are that administering flu shots just to children would protect the elderly as well as giving the flu shots to the elderly themselves.
So the next time someone asks why you care if they don’t get their kids a flu shot, just tell them you don’t want to get sick.