For Chalea Andrejko and her family, herd immunity is not only important. It’s 100% necessary because Chalea’s 14 year old daughter Erikah has a weakened immune system. Erikah was only a few months old when she was diagnosed Biliary atresiawhich means she was born with no bile ducts in her liver, which leads to a blockage of bile from the liver and can lead to liver damage. The condition resulted in two failed corrective operations, a Liver transplant when she was nine months old, and countless illnesses and hospitalizations.
To protect her new organ, Erikah was prescribed immunosuppressive drugsthat she will take for the rest of her life. This means that Erikah cannot get vaccines that contain live viruses, such as: Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) or chickenpox Vaccinations. It also means that Chalea has always had to worry about who is for her daughter, whether enough children are vaccinated at her school, or whether someone in the park or supermarket has a virus that could be fatal to her daughter. For most people, mumps or chickenpox brings only short-term suffering or discomfort, but for Erikah, these diseases can result in liver loss or death.
Because the school will resume this September with significantly lower vaccination rates Since the pandemic began, mothers like Chalea have been hoping other parents will do their part, catch up with their children with their vaccines, and maintain the herd immunity that children like Erikah need to survive.
Herd Immunity Basics
Herd immunity, also known as community immunity, occurs when a large enough proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease that it is unlikely to be passed from one person to another. The percentage of people who need to be vaccinated, called a threshold, depends on the disease.
“Herd immunity provides indirect protection for people who are not immune and unable to get vaccinated,” said Janis Hogan, RN, NCSN, a high school nurse in Rockport, Maine.
The best way to achieve herd immunity is through vaccination. When enough people in a community are vaccinated and thus immune to a particular disease, they act like shields for those who cannot be vaccinated. Community immunity prevents the disease from spreading to those at risk.
Who is betting on herd immunity?
Children and adults who cannot protect themselves with vaccines rely on herd immunity to prevent certain diseases.
Someone who cannot be vaccinated can be:
- Immunocompromised – Transplant recipients taking immunosuppressive drugs, those currently being treated for certain types of cancer, those with HIV / AIDS, and those with Diseases that affect the immune system are often unable to obtain vaccines that contain live viruses. Also, because of their weakened immune systems, these patients can become extremely sick or even die from diseases that are normally vaccine-preventable.
- Allergic – In rare cases, patients, often already life-threatening allergies, may be allergic to vaccines.
- Pregnant – Some vaccines are not safe to use during pregnancy.
Also some Religions do not discourage or allow vaccines for their members. While most states don’t allow religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations, there are some who do.
Decreased vaccination rates
From June to September 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and families were quarantined in their homes, the number of vaccinations for children rose decreased very. Although vaccination rates began to rise again after most of the home stay orders were canceled in the fall of 2020, that increase was not enough to catch up with all those who stayed behind.
The problem with these lower vaccination rates is that outbreaks become more likely when fewer children receive the recommended vaccines. “If parents don’t immunize their children, the threshold can drop below that magic number, causing herd immunity to drop and outbreaks to occur,” Hogan said. During the Measles outbreak 2019 in New York, for example, the vaccination coverage was only 77% compared to the mandatory threshold of 93–95%.
If parents don’t take steps to keep their children’s vaccinations up to date, and the number of children being vaccinated remains this low or continues to decline, we could have more infectious disease outbreaks, such as: whooping cough or polio – a great danger to those who rely on herd immunity.
What to do if your child is lagging behind with vaccines
If your child has defaulted on their vaccination schedule, it is a good idea to contact your doctor about how to properly update them. There is also a Catch-up plan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which you can follow to make sure vaccinations are separated in the right time.
No matter what, it’s never too late. You can also see your doctor to continue your child’s vaccination schedule. Some offices may even have special vaccination appointments or offer vaccination clinics.
Depending on the federal state, certain vaccination regulations apply when school starts in autumn. Check with your child’s school to see if your child meets these requirements.
No matter what your state requires, Hogan urges parents to get their children vaccinated. “As a school nurse, I’m so strong [supporter] of vaccinations. It is so important to immunize your children and maintain the herd immunity we have built against these diseases that have killed so many children in the past, “she said.
Parents like Chalea would agree and ask you to vaccinate your children to protect not only your children but theirs as well.
Chalea can’t help but get angry when parents don’t vaccinate their children because it feels like a discharge from everything she and Erikah have gone through.
“The heartache, spent night after night in the hospital, the time it took 16 attempts to get one NS because she was so dehydrated, having pain, surgery and medication. After all I’ve been through with my child to keep them alive, it’s not fair to lose them to something as preventable as chickenpox. ”
This resource was created with the assistance of Merck.
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