Study Finds Vaccinations Keep Communities Safe
Low immunization rates leads to higher risk of disease
FARGO, N.D. — Experts say getting vaccinated can not only protect you from infectious diseases, but it can also protect people who aren’t able to get vaccines.
One new study looks at how opting out of vaccines puts entire communities at risk. States like North Dakota and Minnesota have exemptions if parents don’t want to vaccinate their kids. Researchers say the higher an exemption rate a place has, the more at risk they are for an outbreak of disease.
“Vaccines work in really two ways. One is to protect us as an individual, but the other way is to protect that herd level protection or that community level protection, because a number of people can’t get the vaccine or don’t respond to the vaccine,” Paul Carson, an infectious disease professor at NDSU, said.
Reasons for getting exemptions from vaccines could be medical, personal belief, or religious. Getting vaccinated helps entire populations, because if one person can’t be vaccinated, they depend on everyone else to prevent spreading a disease. That’s referred to as herd immunity.
“We look at very infectious diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough… typically for those types of diseases, that rate of immunization needs to be close to 95 percent,” Carson said.
A map from the North Dakota Department of Health shows the western part of the state has a lower immunization rate of kindergarteners than the rest of the state.
Even though North Dakota and Minnesota give parents the option of not vaccinating their kids, most states across the U.S. do require that all kids are vaccinated before registering for school.
Eighteen states allow for exemptions from vaccinations. Experts say some places have rolled back exemptions after a major disease breaks out.
“It’s not just about our own children. You can get away with not vaccinating your children as long as everyone else is kind of protecting your child by doing their part. That breaks down. We saw it break down in Minnesota with one of the largest measles epidemics in the U.S. in decades,” Carson said.
Experts say vaccines are studied with more scrutiny than other medications and devices.