By Michelle Lampariello
Like many kids, I was terrified of getting my flu shot and would throw tantrums until my mother bribed me with a promise of macaroni and cheese for dinner if I behaved.
Though I may have spent my childhood terrified of needles, I changed my tune as I got older and learned more about the role of vaccines in disease prevention. When healthy people don’t get vaccinated against diseases like measles, meningitis and chickenpox, we are endangering people with compromised immune systems who are unable to get the vaccine themselves.
Herd immunity, which is also sometimes referred to as “community immunity,” is the idea that as the number of people in a population who are vaccinated and become immune to a disease increases, the disease’s ability to spread decreases, according to vaccines.gov.
When a larger percentage of the population is immunized, it becomes harder for pathogens to find a host to infect. It also becomes less likely that someone who is unable to be vaccinated will come in contact with an infected individual.
There are a variety of reasons why someone may be unable to be vaccinated, but common causes include having an allergy, Type 1 diabetes, HIV/AIDS or cancer, according to vaccines.gov.
Clearly, these people are not avoiding their flu shots because they don’t like needles — most of them endure much more painful procedures for the condition that makes them ineligible for a flu shot in the first place. When healthy people refuse to be vaccinated because they are apprehensive, doubt its effectiveness or adhere to the misconception that vaccines cause conditions like autism, they allow disease to spread much faster in their community and put people with compromised immune systems in harm’s way.
If every healthy person were to get their flu shot, they could protect everyone who had a medical reason to not be vaccinated through herd immunity. But for every healthy person who does not get their flu shot, it becomes increasingly less likely that herd immunity will offer protection to people with compromised immune systems.
In some cases, people elect not to be vaccinated for religious reasons. While these people can’t necessarily be stopped or told what to do with their faith or their bodies, it is important to remember that almost every religion emphasizes the value of helping others, especially those who cannot help themselves. Getting your flu shot allows you to help protect those who need healthy, vaccinated people to limit the spread of disease in their community.
Students share opinions around campus
“Should all healthy people be vaccinated?”
“Yes. I think that it’s important because it can really prevent diseases.”
“I think it helps those who can’t be vaccinated because then they’re not surrounded by sick people.”