Vaccines (shots) are important for your health. They teach your body how to defend against diseases so you’ll be protected in the future. It may not be pleasant to get a shot, but it helps your immune system.
Did you know that when you take vaccines, you’re helping other people, too?
When enough people in a community are vaccinated, the community is safe from an epidemic. This is called herd immunity. For very infectious diseases like measles, herd immunity is reached when about 95% of people get vaccines. Then there aren’t enough unprotected people for the disease to spread to. Even if one unprotected person gets sick, they can’t spread it to other people. The disease gets contained.
Without herd immunity, a disease can spread to more places and more people. It can grow and grow until it becomes a very large problem. It can even become an epidemic or pandemic.
Vaccines and herd immunity have had a large impact in the real world. They have been used to bring seven major human diseases under control. That list includes smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, and measles.
Vaccines are the safest and quickest way to build herd immunity.
Some people believe in building herd immunity by contracting a disease and becoming immune that way, but vaccines are much safer and more effective. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Compared to getting vaccinated, it’s very hard to ensure that enough people will get sick and recover from a disease to create herd immunity.
- It’s dangerous to get sick on purpose. Even a disease that isn’t deadly can cause permanent damage to your health. (For example, measles can cause deafness.)
- Immunity doesn’t always last. Diseases like the flu change every year, so you could get sick once only to get sick again the next winter.
- Some people cannot get vaccinated, like babies, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised. When you get immunized, you protect their health.
Getting a vaccine isn’t just for you. It’s for the entire community. Just by being a part of that 95%, you can save lives.