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Why is community immunity all our job?

The short answer is that community immunity is everyone’s job because we are decent, good people.

The longer answer is because while vaccines work for most people, there are some in every community that can’t get vaccinated. Maybe they are babies – just too young for certain vaccines. Maybe they are immunocompromised – undergoing cancer treatment or have some other medical issues that take vaccination off the table for them. Maybe they are allergic to something in a certain vaccine.

Regardless of the reasons, there are three important truths about people who rely on community immunity:

  • The very reasons why they cannot be vaccinated make them most at risk of the disease
  • They are just as deserving of being protected as the rest of us
  • We should want to protect them for no other reason than we’re good people who care about others

For folks who are not buying the greater good reason, community immunity is their job too because we are each better protected when we are all protected. That’s because the fewer opportunities for the vaccine to infect others means it has less opportunity to mutate into something dangerous to
even vaccinated people.

So while the greater good argument is “I protect you,” the fact is that it works in reverse too: “you protect me.” While most vaccines are really effective, no vaccine is 100% effective. When a community achieves community immunity, vaccinated individuals are safer too because there will be fewer opportunities for breakthrough cases (cases in fully vaccinated people).

Remember, we have more than 100 years of scientific evidence that proves vaccines are safe and effective. Community immunity is literally one of the easiest “good deed” actions we can do – by protecting ourselves, we protect others…and they protect us. It is no extra work, no extra time, or no extra effort.

A mother's story and her son's fight for his life

In 2011 Laura B.’s 2-year-old son Ben was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). While Ben has started the MMR vaccine series, he was unable to finish it because of the chemotherapy.

Ben was vulnerable and fighting for his life when the unthinkable happened. An unvaccinated child in Ben’s hospital unit was diagnosed with measles.

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to man. It’s also serious and potentially deadly for kids like Ben. The medical staff jumped into action giving Ben painful but necessary treatments to try to boost his immune system.

Laura was heartbroken:

I looked into Ben’s innocent eyes… and could barely speak without crying. How could anyone ask Ben to fight more than Leukemia? To ask him to fight a vaccine-preventable disease on top of it? It is unconscionable.

Because of the treatments to try to stave off measles, Ben was left in excruciating pain and unable to walk. He was quarantined for 21 days as Ben’s parents and the medical team held their breath hoping against hope Ben didn’t contract measles. Ben was lucky and didn’t get measles. But for Laura, the entire experience was terrifying.

Her message:

Our son has already fought leukemia for three years of his life, a reality that has changed everything. I would never want him to also become a victim of a disease that should not even be in my community. Vaccines are safe and they save lives. By choosing vaccination, you will be protecting your child – and mine.

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