This post is from contributing writer Mary Voogt of Just Take A Bite.
Before I begin I want to state that this post does not deal with vaccine safety. It is not pro or anti vaccines. It is simply discussing vaccine efficacy and the theory of herd immunity.
Vaccinating vs. not vaccinating is a very personal choice – a choice every parent should have.
Vaccination is a medical procedure and the government should never be allowed to make that decision for us, but it’s getting closer and closer to that point, such as in Michigan. If our freedom to choose whether or not to vaccinate is taken away or prohibits us from education or a career, then we no longer live in a democracy, in the land of the free. We live in a dictatorship.
People have different beliefs on safety, religion, morality, etc. The right to choose must be maintained.
But some people feel it’s ok to take away that individual right “for the good of the group.” The theory used to back up this claim is called the
Herd Immunity Theory
Note the word theory.
The theory of Herd Immunity is not a proven fact. And it’s NOT a valid reason to mandate vaccination, which is what I want to work through today.
So just what is a theory?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a theory is:
“an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances” or “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.”
A theory is not proven. It is hypothetical. It is a possible solution given to explain things.
In a recent trending Forbes article, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel has this to say about a scientific theory: “You’ve heard of the concept of a proof, and the claims that certain pieces of evidence prove the validities of these theories. Except that’s a complete lie. While they provide very strong evidence for those theories, they aren’t proof. In fact, when it comes to science, proving anything is an impossibility…Every scientific theory will someday fail, and when it does, that will herald a new era of scientific inquiry and discovery.”
What is the Herd Immunity Theory?
According to vaccines.gov:
When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as “community immunity.”
The principle of community immunity applies to control of a variety of contagious diseases, including influenza, measles, mumps, rotavirus, and pneumococcal disease.
In simpler terms – if enough people are vaccinated, the disease can no longer spread.
Factors Necessary to Validate the Herd Immunity Theory
The theory of Herd Immunity seems like it makes sense. It is a “plausible general principle.” But let’s take a closer look.
There are three critical factors that must be true in order for the Herd Immunity Theory to work.
- Vaccines must be 100% permanent. They must provide complete immunity for life.
- The only way to catch a disease must be directly from another person that has the illness.
- Vaccinated people must not be able to transmit the disease.
If all those are true, then if you are vaccinated, you are 100% safe from the illness you are vaccinated for. Then only unvaccinated individuals would be able to be infected and are the only source of the disease spreading. And if enough people are vaccinated then we can eradicate a disease.
Let’s look at these three assumptions.
Vaccines must be 100% permanent.
Quite simply, vaccines wear off (AND sometimes they never work in the first place). The CDC states:
Immunizations are not just for children. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. (emphasis added)
Immune.org/nz states that “No vaccine is 100% effective, a small percentage of people are not protected after vaccination and for others, the protection may wane over time.”
This means we have plenty of teens and adults walking around thinking they’re protected from many diseases who probably aren’t, plus a good number who never were.
According to cdc.gov, “Depending on the vaccine, about 1% to 5% of children who are vaccinated fail to develop immunity. If these children are exposed to that disease, they could get sick.”
So vaccines are not 100% effective, to begin with. And they wear off. If you read about any recent outbreaks of illnesses like mumps or measles, you will note that many of the individuals who contracted the illness were vaccinated.
Wasn’t the vaccine supposed to protect them? If it’s not protecting them, how are they (the herd) protecting others?
With all these gaps in effective immunization, we probably get a lot closer to losing that critical mass needed for “herd immunity.”
Disease only spreads from person to person.
Let’s check the second assumption. Is the only way to catch a disease directly from an infected person?
According to healthline.com, there are seven ways a disease can be spread through indirect contact. These include food and drinking water, animals, insects, and environmental reservoirs.
This is in addition to both direct and indirect contact with an infected person. Animals and even soil can carry diseases, not just other humans.
Vaccinated people can’t spread the disease.
Herd immunity hinges on the fact that if an unvaccinated person is in a room with a vaccinated person, the latter can’t infect the former with the preventable disease.
If vaccinated kids were simply walking around sharing diseases that no one knew they had, it wouldn’t go quite as well.
Westonaprice.org explains “Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), rotavirus, chicken pox, shingles and influenza [nasal mist] can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterward and infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.”
This means that sometimes, individuals who ARE vaccinated are often the ones spreading the disease, and it’s BECAUSE of the vaccinations.
It begs the question, should individuals be quarantined after vaccination? It might prevent the spread of disease better than the vaccine itself.
Even if you don’t believe shedding is real (it’s controversial), with pertussis (whooping cough), it may be even worse. People can’t “shed” pertussis because it’s no longer delivered as a live virus, but there’s a darker secret there.
It’s only been documented officially in baboons, although Katie believes it’s also happened in her own family. People who are immune via the vaccine for pertussis can still be infected for an entire month with it, although they may not show any symptoms. This means they are highly likely to be around plenty of others, including those at risk of severe pertussis infections, such as newborns and the immuno-compromised.
That’s three strikes against the Herd Immunity theory. Which disproves it.
But let’s look deeper yet. Assume again that we do have 100% efficacy and that the only way to spread a disease is from unvaccinated person to unvaccinated person.
How many people encompasses “a critical portion of a community” for Herd Theory?
Does it surprise you that we don’t really know?
The theory of what makes herd immunity effective has changed over the years when it was noted that the theory was not proving true. I’ve done my share of science in the past, having a degree in electrical and computer engineering. Last I checked you don’t keep fudging the data until you can make it look like your hypothesis is correct.
Scientists say the number is different for every disease/vaccine. pbs.org explains it like this:
To set a threshold, epidemiologists—experts in infectious disease transmission—use a value called “basic reproduction number,” often referred to as “R0.” This number represents how many people in an unprotected population one infected person could pass the disease along to. For example, R0 for measles is between 12 and 18, while for polio, it is between five and seven.
The higher this number is, the higher the immunity threshold must be to protect the community.
Because measles is extremely contagious and can spread through the air, for example, the immunity threshold needed to protect a community is high, at 95%. Diseases like polio, which are a little less contagious, have a lower threshold—80% to 85% in the case of polio.
The general concept of an immunity threshold seems simple, but the factors involved in calculating a specific threshold are complex. These factors include how effective the vaccine for a given disease is, how long-lasting immunity is from both vaccination and infection, and which populations form critical links in transmission of the disease. The collective differences in these factors result in different thresholds for different diseases, with a significant factor being R0.
So even from vaccine to vaccine the “critical portion” is different, even though the generally accepted portion is 95%. But that is not actually true for all vaccines. And the threshold is just an estimate.
Should this have any impact on which are required for attending school and whether vaccines are mandatory with no exemptions? Seems like it should.
Assuming a vaccine is 100% effective, then the equation used for calculating the herd immunity threshold can be used for calculating the vaccination level needed to eliminate a disease, written as Vc. Vaccines are usually imperfect however, so the effectiveness, E, of a vaccine must be accounted for:
From this equation, it can be observed that if E is less than (1 − 1/Ro), then it is impossible to eliminate a disease, even if the entire population is vaccinated. Similarly, waning vaccine-induced immunity, as occurs with acellular pertussis vaccines, requires higher levels of booster vaccination to sustain herd immunity.
But don’t the pharmaceutical companies tell us that herd immunity works? Shouldn’t I believe them?
If herd immunity is something the drug companies truly believe, they would be trying to enforce vaccines on the entire population about every ten years since they know full well that the vaccines wear off.
But they know adults would never agree to that or simply would not take the time for it. Instead, they target babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (who have no voice of their own and can’t tell us how they feel after a vaccine) and try to convince us that a 2 day old being vaccinated for Hepatitis B is going to protect our teens from STDs. And if you don’t agree then you are somehow an unfit parent and can even have your children taken away.
But if you decline a vaccine as an adult, you wouldn’t be questioned or taken to jail.
The truth is they must know herd immunity is not complete protection (or they believe it is without understanding how it actually works themselves). The lie is perpetuated when we convince parents to vaccinate their children without adequate and accessible information about how herd immunity works.
If you knew half our population is unvaccinated anyway (think everyone above the age of thirty), would you trust mandatory vaccines for children? The bottom line is that even if herd immunity were possible, we don’t have it.
If Herd Immunity Works, We’d Have More Outbreaks
If scientists believe that herd immunity is truly what keeps diseases from spreading and that their calculations are correct – that we need around 95% vaccination rate to eradicate disease – then why don’t we have these diseases running rampant through our country right now?
If you really think about it, our vaccination rate is probably more like 40%. With large portions of the population that never were given the current vaccines (because the vaccine schedule has changed so much), plus a large portion that had the vaccines but they have worn off, plus a portion of younger individuals that have either declined vaccines or are unable to receive them, we don’t come anywhere close to 95%.
If we aren’t close to achieving the proper conditions for herd immunity, why don’t we see these illnesses on a daily basis?
It doesn’t add up. The logical conclusion is that herd immunity is not actually true. That 95% calculation is starting to look more like a profit margin than a scientific calculation to eradicate infectious disease.
So the next time another parent or celebrity or TV personality (the drug companies use them to promote vaccines) or even a doctor tries to tell you to vaccinate your child to protect others, ask them when they had their last round of vaccines.
Because they are just as likely to be spreading disease as a child. Or ask them to explain what herd immunity means. I bet they don’t know.
Does Herd Immunity Exist?
Please note that there is a thing called herd immunity – but it only comes from natural immunity, not from vaccines.
Vaccines do not work the same way as natural immunity to a wild virus. So you can’t apply the same logic to them, even though that is what the vaccine industry has worked to make us believe. It is just not true.
Real herd immunity comes when the virus is present and we develop immunity and keep that immunity as we are re-exposed.
God created our bodies so amazingly with the ability to fight disease and heal. Don’t expect a man-made drug to be able to do the same thing. Something God-made and something man-made never compare (think about our food!!).
Chickenpox is a great example of natural herd immunity – and of what happens when we interrupt that cycle.
Chickenpox is not a deadly disease. I had it as a kid and gave it to my little brother, as many of us probably did. My older brother actually had chickenpox while my mom was in the hospital giving birth to me!! Yes, it’s annoying to itch for a few days. But who cares. There is no serious need for a vaccine for an annoying sickness.
It’s actually good to exercise your immune system with illnesses that aren’t serious. The chickenpox vaccine was pushed because of convenience. Parents didn’t want to stay home from work for a week with a sick child.
But now we face the consequences of that convenience. Now that most kids are NOT getting chickenpox, there are many more cases of shingles in adults – a much more serious illness. And those of us who had chicken pox as a child are losing our natural immunity since we are not re-exposed to the illness by our own children.
You guessed it – we are now more susceptible to shingles.
“If you have had chickenpox previously, you have developed immunity to the virus that causes shingles. However, this immunity declines over time. But, if you are later exposed to a child or adult with chickenpox, your immunity to the virus is “boosted”. This boost may help to reduce your risk of developing shingles.” (source)
“The best explanation for the increase is that we used to get a subclinical boost when we were exposed to the chickenpox virus as adults,” said William Schaffner, MD, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University. “Because of widespread immunization, that’s not happening.” That WebMD article admits that this is also just a theory though and may not hold true.
That does not sound like a good trade-off to me at all. There was nothing wrong with kids getting chickenpox, and it helped adults keep immunity from shingles. The chickenpox vaccine has disrupted a system that was working, one in which, ironically, the children were protecting the adults by their small suffering with an illness. I personally would love to be around a kid with chickenpox to keep my natural immunity!!
This is also a theory of course, and it is shifting as well. Science Daily reports in 2015 that the age group put more at risk for shingles because of chickenpox vaccination is younger than previously thought, 31-40 years old. This 2006 research in the Postgraduate Medical Journal states, “Having a child in the household reduced the risk of shingles for about 20 years,” but by 2015 it was thought that the reduced risk was only for about 2 years.
The CDC explores the theory as well but claim that the data do not show correlation. Scientists cannot yet explain the marked increase in shingles that began in the mid-1990s.
So we may or may not be skipping the benign illness to be exposed to something more serious, but in a similar twist, vaccines may cause worse strains of diseases to arise.
“Since the adoption of mass and ring vaccination, complexities and challenges to herd immunity have arisen. Modelling of the spread of infectious disease originally made a number of assumptions, namely that entire populations are susceptible and well-mixed, which do not exist in reality, so more precise equations have been developed. In recent decades, it has been recognized that the dominant strain of a microorganism in circulation may change due to herd immunity, either because of herd immunity acting as an evolutionary pressure or because herd immunity against one strain allowed another already-existing strain to spread.”[source]
Final Thoughts on Vaccines
It’s worth noting that the people that are usually worried about the spread of disease are the ones that are vaccinated. If one believes strongly in the efficacy of vaccines shouldn’t he or she have nothing to worry about?
Also, I’m not sure how this lie got started, but unvaccinated children do NOT carry diseases (there was a recent Harvard study done to prove that they pose no risk).
Case in point: If you are a parent, when your child was born, were you scared to go near them for fear of catching a deadly disease? Of course not! We are not born with diseases. An unvaccinated person does not carry disease, and they are not somehow harmful to others. They can catch an illness just like anyone else, even someone who is vaccinated. That’s just plain common sense.
For those that are curious, I have three children of my own (and one on the way!). Two of my kids have had vaccines. One of my kids is in the group of people that cannot get vaccines. Her doctor has deemed it unsafe.
She DOES need the theoretical herd to keep her safe! But I am not trusting my child’s health to an unproven theory. I am proactive about keeping her (and all of my kids) healthy through real food and a natural lifestyle. To me, that is far more effective.
As I mentioned before, this post is about efficacy, not safety. Vaccine safety is something everyone should research (and research and research) and come to their own conclusion about and do what is best for his or her own family. I can’t stress this enough. Please do your own research. Parents need to have the knowledge to make informed decisions.
Let’s keep our kids safe by advocating for safe vaccines (without heavy metal adjuvants and preservatives that are used to make the vaccines cheaper. Here is a list of ingredients in case you’ve never seen one), true information about the benefits and risks and maintaining our right to choose.
And let’s not perpetuate the lie that by vaccinating more children, we are doing what’s good for the majority. It’s just not true.
Do what is right for you and your family. If you decide not to vaccinate, your child will not automatically be carrying disease or be dangerous to those around them.
Want to dig deeper into the vaccine issues? This wonderful docu-series is airing right now!