Herd immunity: Getting vaccinated is not just about you
The state Health Department continues to monitor the measles outbreak in Ocean County and other parts of the Garden State where more than a dozen people have contracted the disease in recent weeks.
Officials point out this latest flare-up underscores the importance of getting vaccinated.
According to Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey, high vaccination rates create herd immunity.
“You don’t necessarily need 100% compliance, but you need close to it. If you have close to it, then pretty much the whole community will benefit from that," he said.
“The percentage of people that need to be immunized to have herd immunity is higher for those diseases that are very readily transmissible — around 93 to 95 percent.”
According to state Health Department data, the statewide vaccination average for schoolchildren is 95% but in some parts of the state it’s much lower.
Only about 50% of students in Ogdensburg, Sussex County, had received all of their recommended vaccinations last year.
The anti-vaccination movement in New Jersey has been increasing in recent years, with some parents voicing concern about the safety of vaccines. But Louie points out that many vaccines protect against serious diseases.
“The diseases we vaccinate against can be deadly, they can have serious complications, they can lead to brain damage and sometimes death,” he said. “I think we’ve grown complacent and we don’t realize how bad these diseases can be.”
Some individuals, especially those with weak immune systems, cannot get vaccinated and rely on everyone else doing so.
“For their sake, it would behoove the rest of us who are able to take the vaccine to take it, thus protecting yourself, your loved ones and the entire community," Louie said.
Fears that vaccines cause autism are unfounded as large studies have shown no connection. Vaccines are largely considered safe.
Louie explained the original term 'herd immunity' refers to cows protecting themselves against wolves and other animals.
“The more cows there are banning together then they’re less likely to be attacked by a predator. Some cleaver person later on used that to describe what the protection effect of immunization is," he said.
“Beyond protecting themselves and their immediate family, they protect the entire community if they are vaccinated.”
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