One of the more common reasons some people in the United States give for why they believe everyone has an obligation to vaccinate their children and themselves with all of the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and mandated by state governments is that it protects those who are too sick to get vaccinated.
The argument assumes that if at least 95 percent of a population is vaccinated against a particular disease, then the entire population is protected from getting that disease, and that this is particularly important for people who are “too sick to get vaccinated.” The concept is known as “herd immunity.”
Of course, the herd immunity theory is riddled with holes—the most glaring of which is that temporary vaccine acquired artificial immunity is simply not the same thing as the longer lasting naturally acquired immunity.1 2 3 So it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain vaccine acquired herd immunity with most live virus and inactivated bacterial vaccines, regardless of whether you vaccinate 95 percent of a population or nearly 100 percent. Just ask China.4
Yet, those who want to force vaccination on everyone persistently argue that vaccine acquired herd immunity is critical to protecting the health and lives of all those who cannot be vaccinated because they suffer from a range of diseases, illnesses or conditions that compromise their immune system, thus making them too sick to get vaccinated.5 6 7
In a 2015 article in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote: “It’s not just cancer patients who can’t be immunized, but also infants, those with vaccine allergies, and people with medical conditions that leave them immunocompromised. And a small proportion of people get the vaccine but never develop immunity, so they, too, depend on others to get vaccinated.”8 9
“Thus refusing to vaccinate your children is not ‘personal choice’ but public irresponsibility. You no more have the right to risk others by failing to vaccinate than you do by sending your child to school with a hunting knife. Vaccination isn’t a private choice but a civic obligation,” Kristoff wrote.8
The message is clear: “If you are a caring person and a responsible citizen, then you must do your duty and get vaccinated for the sake of those unfortunate people who can’t. If you don’t, then you must be a horrible person and an unworthy citizen who must be punished in some way.”
The problem with this argument is that it is a bogus one. Although the CDC considers pregnancy and severe immunodeficiency to be a contraindication to getting live virus vaccines, the CDC states that, “killed or inactivated vaccine do not represent a danger to immunocompromised persons and generally should be administered as recommended for healthy persons.” The CDC also says that, in general, live and inactivated vaccines do not pose a problem for those who suffer from chronic autoimmune and neurological diseases and disorders.8
A glaring example of just how bogus this argument is can be found in the recent recommendation by the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) should get routine vaccinations, including the annual influenza vaccine.10
The AAN’s Mauricio Farez, MD, MPH recently wrote: “We reviewed all of the available evidence, and for people with MS, preventing infections through vaccine use is a key part of medical care. People with MS should feel safe and comfortable getting their recommended vaccinations.”10
MS is believed by many medical researchers to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune attacks it own tissues. Other researchers think it is an immune-mediated disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (CNS).11 12 13
So it turns out that, according to the CDC, almost nobody is “too sick” to get vaccinated. This is another reason why everyone should have the freedom to exercise informed consent and make their own decisions about using vaccines that entail significant risks, which turn out to be 100 percent for some people. It is wrong to make people feel guilty about refusing to use a pharmaceutical product that carries significant risks so that other people are given theoretical “protection” that cannot be guaranteed.
1 Cáceres M. The Misunderstood Theory of Herd Immunity. The Vaccine Reaction June 20, 2015.
2 Cáceres M. Herd Immunity Theory Has Been Repeatedly Disproven. The Vaccine Reaction May 30, 2017.
3 Cáceres M. The Theory of Herd Immunity Has Nothing to Do With Vaccination. The Vaccine Reaction June 18, 2018.
4 Wang Z, 1 Yan R, He H, Li Q, Chen G, Yang S, Chen E. Difficulties in Eliminating Measles and Controlling Rubella and Mumps: A Cross-Sectional Study of a First Measles and Rubella Vaccination and a Second Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination. PLoS One 2014; 9(2): e89361.
5 Why Do We Vaccinate? Immunity Community.
6 Correll R. How Do Vaccines Work, Exactly? verywell Aug. 28, 2019
7 Vaccines and Immunization. New York State Department of Health.
8 Cáceres M. The Immunocompromised Still Get Vaccinated. The Vaccine Reaction Jan. 18, 2016.
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraindications and Precautions. CDC.gov Aug. 20, 2019.
10 TVR Staff. American Academy of Neurology Recommends Routine Vaccination for MS Patients. The Vaccine Reaction Sept. 8, 2019.
11 Lancastre J. Multiple Sclerosis: An Autoimmune Disease. Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
12 Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders. Indiana University Health.
13 What is an immune-mediated disease? National Multiple Sclerosis Society.