Vaccination is a Social Responsibility

When a large percentage of a population is vaccinated, the unvaccinated percentage can in many cases (measles for example) receive indirect protection from infection. This is called herd immunity. Those that cannot be vaccinated for age or health reasons rely on it. But herd immunity can break down very quickly and non-linearly as the vaccinated percentage decreases.

What a wonderful thing it is then, to be able to vaccinate our children, not just to protect them, but those around them that are too young to be completely vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. What a wonderful gift herd immunity is to and from humanity. Yes there are risks of adverse reactions to vaccination, but such risks are microscopic and completely outweighed by the benefits.

While vaccines generally do a great job of protecting individuals, not everybody seroconverts. We all potentially rely on herd immunity, not just those that cannot be vaccinated.

What an incredibly selfish thing it is then, to not vaccinate simply out of choice; to rely on your neighbours to protect your children rather than take a microscopic risk; to disengage from the wonderful social collaboration from which herd immunity emerges; to erode herd immunity. Imagine what would happen if we were all that selfish; if we were all freeloaders.

Given that vaccination not only helps the individual, but the local population, it is especially ironic that freeloaders blindly engage their children in activities that are orders of magnitude more dangerous, like driving them to school.

We all have bias and it’s so easy to resolve it with intuition, ideology and anecdote. But a truly caring and thoughtful person will live with any dissonance and act for the sake of their children and their neighbours, rather than indulge in the escape of their own cognitive comfort.

If you are a vaccine sceptic, think about this for a moment. You are only getting the choice to not vaccinate and have your children grow up without the probability of serious illness because most people around you have fulfilled their social responsibility and had their children vaccinated. Our children will be protecting your unvaccinated children. You are relying on your neighbours to be vaccinated. But the more people that decide to not vaccinate, the more disease will drift back until at some point thousands of children will be dying again every year. Herd immunity builds up a resource, a precious space where a limited number of people can be indirectly protected. Don’t contribute to a tragedy of the commons and deplete something so essential to the very young and those that cannot be vaccinated.

Be a thoughtful caring loving rational human being. Vaccinate your children. Get your boosters. It’s not just a personal choice like hair colour is.

“It’s not just a decision you make for yourself, it’s also a decision you make for your neighbour.” Paul Offit.

Software developer. Sailwave author. Interested in vaccines and denial.

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