Opting-Out Of Vaccines; Dipping Below Herd Immunity

Graphic Credit: Jan Willem Tulp http://tulpinteractive.com

Graphic Credit: Jan Willem Tulp http://tulpinteractive.com

With more and more families opting out of vaccinating their kids, one of the most sacred of public health goals, the concept of herd immunity, is being threatened.

A recent piece in Scientific American featured tantalizing graphics — on view above — illustrating this scary trend.  According to this analysis, the vaccination rates in some states — Oregon, West Virginia and Colorado, for instance, are shockingly low. So low, in fact, that they’ve dropped below the “herd immunity” levels (or what is thought to be the safe threshold) for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis).

So what’s the deal with herd immunity?  According to the CDC, a population has reached herd immunity when a sufficient proportion is immune to a particular infectious disease.  Immune population members get that protection either by being vaccinated or by having a prior infection.

The epidemiological concept is based on this logic: If the chance of an infectious person crossing paths with a susceptible person is very low — as would be the case in a population whose vaccination rate is at or near herd immunity — then even a very infectious disease may not be able to spread within their population.  The more infectious a disease is, the greater the immune proportion of a population must be in order for herd immunity to protect susceptible population members.

But as per the stats presented in Scientific American, a number of states are falling short.

Dr. Kimberly Shea , Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, says that as more and more pockets of non-immunized people emerge, more outbreaks are inevitable. “The big players are pertussis and measles,” she says.

A 2010 study documented a measles outbreak in San Diego, California whose roots traced back to a seven-year-old boy who was intentionally un-vaccinated.  He came back from a trip to Switzerland not knowing he’d been infected by the measles-causing rubella virus, which resulted in the exposure of approximately 800 people and 11 cases of the measles.  Though vaccination coverage in San Diego was high at the time, the study demonstrated that people who aren’t vaccinated still pose a threat.

Shea thinks that one key driver behind the parental opt-out trend is misinformation about the risks of vaccination and the severity of the diseases vaccines are designed to protect against.  She says that the public health community can help provide correct information – and more of it—to help ease people’s fears.

Until then, if you’re looking for guidance on the vaccinating your child or yourself, Shea has this advice:

“Be wary of unfounded claims about vaccinations and obtain your information from a trusted and reliable source like your health care provider or pediatrician.”

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  • JetsonG

    I can’t believe how many of you really believe this anti-vax BS. As someone who has worked toward cures of currently incurable infectious diseases, the level of stupidity and belief in people who have been shown to be quacks is beyond the pale. I don’t know what I expect though, the US educational system is failing, and we are headed down a very bad road, with the anti-vaxxers just making it worse for everyone. They have proven that the outbreaks are occurring in areas with high personal exemptions, and whooping cough does kill those too young to be vaccinated. It’s the the babies and elderly whose immunity is waning that you are endangering.

  • Cynthia Stauffer

    this is only for children ages 19-35 months. how do we know that 85-95% of the population over 35 months is vaccinated/immune?

  • silvermaran

    There is no herd immunity after infecting everyone with the real cause of AIDS for decades in spirochetal infected vaccine cell lines called IMMORTAL–without telling you WHY they are immortal. US has committed massive fraud and Crimes Against Humanity letting mass murderers get away with giving everyone spirochetal prion protein infections and then adding to the mix as fast as they can to get rid of all you bottom feeders. They KNEW in 1985 when the HepB test found 88% of HIV it was all the same thing and they KNEW its recombinations were the real cause of AIDS immune suppression. NOW 1 in 29 are being born severely multiply infected and all the rest of you dumb suckers who believe the hoax of protections by ADDING junk infectious DNA all have it growing in your skin, your guts, and your brains. Say THANKS USA@

    • Epidemiologist

      Wow, you’re not even coherent.

      • silvermaran

        I am right on!
        The criminals knew in the 30′s Yellow Fever vaccines were infective.
        But they gave us lies of TB for hundreds of Santoriums that quickly evolved to Psych hospitals after they killed all the dying by denying them truth.
        Then the criminals moved on to Immortal cell lines from a woman who died of spirochetal disease without telling you why they were immortal. Knowing spirochetal prion proteins cannot be killed in the antigenic variation that is the real cause of AIDS. LOL
        From there the criminals moved on to Lyme spirochetal infected vaccines for the feed animals, people, and pets and some still use them.

        And that was still not enuf to take out the enemy. They then gave us OSPA/AIDS vaccines made with the same infective junk they knew caused AIDS immune suppression so now 30K. Thai report and AIDS LIKE illness after criminal trials.

        And if that’s not enuf they now have AIDS vaccines knowing HIV is spirochetal disease in all its infinite morphological forms added to Typhoid and Measles adjuvants to see if they can get the same results as the 7000 Haitian’s that died from lies of Cholera knowing they all share their genes in the Prion synergy that IS spirochetal disease.

  • thevaccinemachine

    Sacred? LOL. This really is a religion for you vaccine extremists.

  • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

    Vaccine-induced herd immunity is a fallacy. Natural Immunity is the Gold Standard.

    • DD

      Well, all the unvaccinated looneys will die out from their diseases while we look on with “I told you so” expressions and the overpopulation problem will take care of itself. Vaccines have save SO MANY lives for quite some time now and there is irrefutable evidence of this, whereas there is nothing but conspiracy nut websites with no evidence and anecdotal individual horror stories (that could be made up). Sure vaccines aren’t perfect 100% of the time and there have been some bad vaccines, but overall they help a whole lot more than they hurt and by not getting vaccinated, you aren’t just putting yourself in danger, but the people around you as well. It’s embarrassing how dumb people are who don’t vaccinate. Educating yourself on the potential risks and benefits of vaccines is one thing. Believe outright bull is quite another.

      • silvermaran

        LOL..The pops are not free of disease who take vaccines. They just destroyed their immune systems to tolerize multiple infections. Those are the people who will DIE of their lies of SYNDROMES faster!!!
        They are CARRIERS while those who don’t vaccinate have some semblance of some immune systems working after giving everyone the real cause of AIDS for decades. When you win your Nobel Prize and tell the world what really caused AIDS let us know….

    • Guest

      Yep because those work so well in 3rd world countries. Ask how that natural immunity is working in Africa.

      • hlynn999

        Yes, because things like medical care, nutrition, and hygiene in Africa are totally comparable to the US. Great point, genius.

  • courageandhope

    A good source for balanced information on vaccine safety is Neil Z. Miller’s “Vaccine Safety Manual, a Handbook for Concerned Parents and Health Practitioners.” Unfortunately, doctors cannot not know all of your own child’s individual risks for vaccine injury. You do need to educate yourself; most doctors preach the vaccine gospel. But it is your child; do not be bullied.

    You can find the information for vaccines approved for use; google search “FDA approved vaccines.” At Blood and Biologics, click in list “vaccines licensed.” You can read there what is in them, about the clinical trials, what adverse effects have been reported. You may be surprised to read, as I did, for example, that the same dose of hepatitis B vaccine is given to a newborn baby as is given to a nineteen-year-old. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/ucm094041.htm

    There was never any study of the carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, effect on the reproductive system or fertility of that vaccine, in either of the two competing brands prior to licensing. In the clinical trials, the adults, children, and infants–not specified how many of each–were observed for only 4-5 days following vaccination. The studies seemed more focused on proving efficacy than safety.

    In fact, one pharma sales rep testified the hep B vaccine was never tried on infants, only on children and adults. Many adverse effects have been reported for the hepatitis B vaccine that showed up after what I would call inadequate clinical trials.

    See http://www.naturodoc.com/library/bio-war/HepB.htm (“Hepatitis B Vaccine for Newborns: Good Intentions, Bad Science, Worse Policy.

    “A manufacturer’s representative was asked in a 1997
    Illinois Board of Health hearing to show evidence that the Hepatitis
    B vaccine is safe for a 1-day old infant. The representative

    “We have none. Our studies were done on 5-
    and 10-year olds.” — The Congressional Quarterly, August
    25, 2000, pg. 647.)

    • moxy

      Vaccines are not like drugs in that they require specific dosages for adults, children and infants. Drug trials on children were only started in recent decades, as vaccines don’t require quite as much fine-tunes as drug dosages do, it will be a very long time before we start doing clinical trials on infants for vaccines, it just isn’t necessary.

      • stoddle

        Clinical trials on infants can actually be very useful since an infant’s immune system is often not yet fully developed and doesn’t respond the same as an adult’s. There is evidence, for example, that early vaccination with DTaP may lead to an increased incidence of allergies.

  • courageandhope

    An interesting alternative perspective can be gained from immunologist Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych, author of “Vaccine Illusion,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Dts3ebwWlo Dr. Tetyana obukhanych Talk at Aligned Chiropractic, Kelowna, B.C. She points out that not everyone who get a measles vaccination will be protected from getting measles. E.g., she had measles at age 11 despite two vaccinations. I had measles the very year I was vaccinated. There have been large outbreaks of measles in almost entirely vaccinated populations. Some people are high responders to vaccination; some are low responders. Dr. Obukhanych also points out that when a mom has actually had measles, her maternal antibodies from the placenta and breastfeeding will protect her infant who is too young to vaccinate. Not so with vaccinated moms. This is a precious protection we are losing. Where measles used to be a childhood disease, now babies and those past childhood are more at risk. Mass vaccination is an experiment of relatively short duration in human history. We shall have to see how it plays out. Measles is not so bad in well-nourished populations who have adequate Vitamin A. But they don’t have enough Vitamin A to treat measles in third world countries, so that is where 95% of the deaths from measles occur. However, with proper care, even complications can generally be resolved without lasting harm, says the World Health Organization.

    • kellymbray

      Even with the best of treatment one in thousand will die from measles. That does not include pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, hearing loss, brain damage and scarring.

      “However, with proper care, even complications can generally be resolved
      without lasting harm, says the World Health Organization.”

      Cite your sources for that quote.

      • courageandhope

        You might have said “please”; I didn’t put that statement in quotes; YOU did. People who get Vitamin A prior to and during treatment have much better outcome with measles. What I said was common sense. Some cases are more complicated than others, and some children have higher risk factors for mortality.

        “Death, disease and disability from measles can be reduced dramatically by effective measles case management.” p. 52 of Annex A to http://www.who.int/immunization_delivery/interventions/TreatingMeaslesENG300.pdf (World Health Organization’s “Treating Measles in Children.”) Note emphasis on need for Vitamin A for prevention and treatment. Note again that 95% of measles deaths occur in poor, malnourished populations. I don’t believe there has been a measles death in the US in over 20 years.


        More on the need for Vitamin A to prevent and treat measles:

        Support for vitamin A advocated by WHO for measles prevention and treatment. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/39/suppl_1/i48.full


        http://www.unicef.org/immunization/23245.html (Vitamin A deficiency affects more than 100 million children and is responsible for 1 in 4 child deaths in regions where the problem exists).

        • calm

          Thanks for taking the time to post your perspective courageandhope. and aside from your perspective, your style stands in contrast to the mud-slinging debate that often surrounds this topic.
          While vaccines seem to work with varying degrees of effectiveness, there is far too much that is unknown regarding the overall effect of vaccinations on our bodies, short middle and long term, to justify the amount of public pressure and dogmatism in the establishment (medical and public health professionals). Pressure and dogmatism send warning signals to those who tend to think for themselves and act accordingly.

          • courageandhope

            Thank you, Calm. You have said it well.

          • Paula

            I noticed that the information on the graphs was about children 19-35 months. Do you have information about when the immunity from these early shots stops? Aren’t adults not as immune as we think we are? Wouldn’t that then lead to a much lower percent of people vaccinated and bring us WELL beyond “herd immunity” levels?

          • concerned

            I’ve wondered this same thing! Answers anyone?

  • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

    In “Pertussis: Challenges Today and for the Future”, Dr. James Cherry explains that, “There are five possible reasons for the resurgence: 1) genetic changes in B. pertussis; 2) a decrease in vaccine efficacy; 3) a more rapid occurrence of waning immunity; 4) increased recognition and reporting of pertussis; and 5) newer laboratory diagnostic tests.” http://dx.plos.org/ambra-doi-resolver/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003418

    • lilady R.N.

      How about credulous parents whose sole source of information about vaccines and the serious, sometimes deadly, diseases they protect against…. are the anti-vaccine anti-science websites?

    • moxy

      The fact that he does not consider declining vaccine rates to be a even a possible factor reveals his own glaring bias.

      • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

        Cherry is probably the most well-known US researcher on the subject. The Opinion Leader.

    • Kitty

      Can people get any more selective in their literature citation when making an argument? Dr. Cherry cleary supports vaccination, but of a slightly different type, against pertussis:
      ” I believe a high priority should be given to the development of less reactogenic whole-cell vaccines.”
      And another study from him (PEDIATRICS Vol. 129 No. 5 May 1, 2012
      pp. 968 -970. doi: 10.1542):
      “for herd immunity there is a need to universally vaccinate all age groups at frequent intervals.”

      Please, for the love of children, stop wasting our time and do some research.

  • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

    Vaccination rates are higher than they have ever been, EVER>>> says CDC, our unelected government agency that seems to work for Big Pharma.


    • violinwidow

      That table only goes up to 2009.

    • KAugsburger

      That link doesn’t even support your claim. Except for the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine(which was only introduced in the US in 2001) none of the vaccines listed on that chart were at all time highs for the most recent years.

    • lilady R.N.

      The table only goes to 2009 and was printed 2011. Read the article more carefully.

  • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

    Why are the parents “opting out”? They do not need permission to say no to pills or chemo, do they? Health choice is critical – every organism has different needs.

    • Dem terk our jerbs!

      Autism is caused by government brainwaves! Protect your head with tinfoil! Your organism has different needs! Never trust the government!

      But seriously, Jenny McCarthy has a point about the damage caused by vaccines: McCarthy was vaccinated as a child, and today she’s completely retarded.

      • Public Health Guy

        Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for saying it.

    • lilady R.N.

      You would do well to educated yourself in some basic science, rather than spouting off on subjects you know nothing about.

      • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

        insults will get you nowhere. They do, however, expose you for what you are. Fact: the more educated, the less likely to vaccinate.

        • lilady R.N.

          That’s a fallacy. Some of the more formally educated people in high income areas fall prey to reading “stuff” on anti-vaccine anti-science websites. They tend to conflate the value of anecdotal stories with real data about the safety of vaccines.

          Hundreds of published studies published in first tier peer reviewed journals find no link between vaccines, the ingredients in vaccines, the spacing and timing of vaccines and the onset of autism…or any other disorder:


          • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

            Due to financial conflicts of interest and close ties to the vaccine industry, AAP vaccine information is not regarded as wholly credible.

          • Moi

            You should really look into how science works. Lord. Scientists aren’t like politicians, taking money from lobbyists and providing their desired legislation. Studies take money. Someone has to pay. If we’re talking about a vaccine study, why would some uninterested party like, I don’t know, Dairy Farmers of America pay for it? That doesn’t mean the interested party has influence over the results of the study.

            As for your user name, you have your human right to choice; the rest of us have a right to think you’re stupid, uninformed, willfully ignorant, and selfish.

        • madcapfeline

          I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, from the Purdue School of Science, and I vaccinate. So yeah, there’s that. Also, where was the insult? I don’t think informing someone that they need to learn about a topic before they attempt to discredit it is necessarily insulting. Unless of course you’re one of “those” that feels that their ignorance is just as valid and important as my expertise. In which case, there is no help, and no hope for you. If you don’t mind your kids dying horrible, preventable deaths, fine, don’t vaccinate. Just keep them locked up in the basement or something so that they can’t infect the poor individuals that have to depend on the herd immunity.

  • Benjamin Ashraf

    It leaves a scary thought it my mind to see how many states are actually falling below to heard immunity levels for both the MMR and DTP vaccines. I hope that everyone who is reading this article realizes that they themselves have an opportunity to correct this and possibly save a life. Simply have your child vaccinated. While I know it can be traumatic for a parent to see the child shot with a needle, the alternative is far worse to see a child suffering from a disease that may in fact cost them their life.

  • Dr C

    Measles is caused by Rubeola!

    • KAugsburger

      True. I think they meant “German Measles”, a common name for Rubella.

  • Christine

    I would be curious to see data supporting that there is in fact an ‘anti vac’ trend. This report for the CDC seems to suggest otherwise.

    • KAugsburger

      It doesn’t sound like you actually read the page you linked to. If you look at Table 2 on that report you will see that 34 of the 48 states that reported saw the percentage of exemptions increase whereas only 9 states and DC saw declines. That would seem to support the claim made by this article that more parents seem to be opting out of getting their children vaccinated.

      It is a very disturbing trend that our society really needs to address before it becomes a major problem.

      • Mike Johnson

        I agree, KAugsburger. This trend of increasing exemptions to vaccination may be a primary result of at least three phenomena: 1. A growing scientific illiteracy within the general public, 2. The internet, where even the most illogical and paranoid conspiracy theories are available for consumption by individuals falling into the group above, and 3. The length of time these diseases were at epidemic levels are great, so there are few living today that understand how serious they are.

        • Public Health Guy

          We call it generational amnesia. There are too many today who never experienced or read about entire wings of hospitals dedicated to kids on iron lungs due to polio, kids in hospitals fighting for survival from measles or the neurological disorders associated with many of the now, vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. Our expectations are that children don’t die of infectious diseases.

    • DD

      A ton of people I know don’t vaccinate. Some are even smart, most are just anti-government and they think vaccines are some kind of political agenda instead of protecting their health. I swear they seem sane in every other way (some not so much), but not vaccinating is bad. I’d say about 1/3 of my friends don’t “believe” in vaccinating. I live in Oregon. So yes, there is a trend. Not to mention all of the celebrities going on and on spouting off their ignorant viewpoints and gathering a following. It’s scary. That said, I’ve never even heard of Pertussis so I doubt I have that vaccine.

      • Epidemiologist

        Pertussis is whooping cough.