Tag Archives: herd immunity

Let’s Talk Vaccines

It seems happiness isn’t all that’s contagious at Disneyland in California.

The recent measles outbreak, now spread across 17 states, is being linked to the theme park. More than half of the measles cases reported in the state are associated with initial exposure at Disneyland.

Public health officials recommend that children under 12 months old and people who have not been vaccinated stay away from the park, and they are urging everyone to get immunized. A recent Pew Research Center poll found 83 percent of Americans believe the measles vaccine is safe for children. But another Pew study shows younger adults believe vaccinations should not be a requirement, and that it is up to the parents to make that decision.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in vaccine mistrust and the idea that they link to certain diseases,” said Assistant Professor of Health Science at CSUN, Kaitlin O’Keefe. “This is not entirely accurate.”

In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield sparked the discussion of vaccines being associated with autism in children, with his study published in the Lancet. Wakefield focused on the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine in a very small study. He said he had found a possible link to autism in children from the vaccine. His claim has since been discredited; he has lost his license to practice medicine in England, and the Lancet published a full retraction. However his claim still led to a decline in vaccines all over the world.

Health experts say physicians need to ask parents more questions in order to understand why they have chosen not to vaccinate, and then offer parents more information about vaccines, to answer their concerns.

“A vaccine takes a germ and exposes it to the patient’s immune system in a safe way, such that the patient is not going to become ill, but it stimulates an immune response,” said Dr. Mikhaela Cielo, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist.

Some parents express concern about the number of vaccines children are required to get at a young age.

“Our immune system is constantly reacting to things around us,” Cielo said. “Kids are sick more often because their bodies are developing this repertoire of antibodies to fight off disease…We know their bodies, in the natural world, are able to respond very well to multiple different antigens at the same time, and they’ve definitely shown, through a big body of research, that children do just fine with multiple vaccinations in one visit. Their bodies will mount a great immune response, and there’s no harm that comes to the child.”

The percentage of elementary school children who have not been vaccinated has doubled in California, according to the CDC. Many parents use the state’s personal belief exemption to explain their decision.

Communities must be immunized at a high rate to fight widespread infectious disease. For diseases like the measles and whooping cough at least 92 percent of the children must be immune. This is a concept known as herd immunity.

“One of the best things about vaccination is enough people have immunity to a disease through vaccination,” O’Keefe said, “and they can protect another member of the community [who can’t be immunized for legitimate health reasons] who might be susceptible to the disease.”

There are no federal vaccination laws, but many public schools and colleges require students to be vaccinated upon entering, and many states allow exemptions from immunizations only for religious reasons.

“Requiring someone to vaccinate in some ways will do more harm than good,” O’Keefe said. “The best way to push towards higher vaccine rates is to educate…get the word out on actual information like scientific studies, evidence towards the safety and efficacy of the vaccines out there.”


Moderator: Teresa Arevalo

Anchor: Wahid Loden

Producer: Kelsey Ducklow

Reporters: Teresa Arevalo, Brenda Garcia, Wahid Lodin and Alexis Wadley

Social Media Editors: Gloria Star and Brenda Garcia


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