The recent measles outbreak has generated a lot of conversation about whether or not parents should have the right to forego vaccines for their children. The debate has been one of personal rights to choose versus allowing an erosion of herd immunity.
Herd immunity is the principle that once enough people in a community are immunized, even those living in those communities who have not been immunized are less likely to get a disease. Because more people are protected from the disease, the community will enjoy a lower number of people susceptible to the disease and less opportunity for those viruses and bacteria to move through the community. Herd immunity is especially important for those who cannot receive vaccines, such as infants too young to receive vaccines, those undergoing chemotherapy and immune-compromised individuals.
For parents of young children, this discourse can be confusing — and even frightening. For this reason, we thought it would be useful to describe some important terms to help parents wade through these sometimes troubling waters:
For parents, the most important of these three when deciding about vaccines should be recommendations because they are based on risks and benefits and may include vaccines not required by state lawmakers for entry to school.
While it’s helpful to be aware of your state vaccine requirements and exemption policies when deciding how best to protect your family, take time to find out which vaccines are recommended on the official immunization schedule.
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