See our page on herd immunity for an explanation of what herd immunity is.
There are some problems with this idea:
Because of the way vaccines work, this can put a child at risk. For many diseases, one dose of vaccine does not give full protection. Some vaccines do work with a single dose, but it can take two or three weeks for the body to develop good levels of antibodies to protect against the disease.
So if a vaccine is given at the start of an outbreak it may not act quickly enough to protect your child. The other problem is that many diseases are infectious before any symptoms show, so your child could catch a disease before you even realise there is an outbreak.
|Breast milk does contain some antibodies which are passed to the baby, especially in the first few days. However, this ‘passive immunity’ wears off after a few weeks, and after that breastfeeding offers very little protection from serious infectious diseases. It is therefore best to get your child vaccinated even if you are breastfeeding long-term.
To some extent, it will. Children with severe malnutrition are more at risk of disease, and a good diet is an important part of keeping healthy.
However, healthy children in wealthy countries are still at risk from conditions such as meningitis and septicaemia (severe blood poisoning). There is also strong evidence that healthy, non-immunised children are more affected than adults during outbreaks of infectious disease because they have wider social networks and come into close contact with more people. There is no evidence that an organic diet offers any greater protection.
There is no evidence that homeopathic medicine can protect against serious infectious diseases.
Even the Faculty of Homeopathy, a UK organisation which aims to ensure high standards in homeopathic practice and training, states that ‘When there is no medical contraindication...immunisation should be carried out according to the current protocol using approved vaccines.’
During any infection by bacteria or viruses, our immune system makes antibodies to fight that particular disease. For many diseases, an 'immune memory' is then created in special white blood cells called T lymphocytes. If we come into contact with the same disease, these white blood cells will 'remember' it and react quickly to fight it, so that we do not become ill. However, this process can only protect you against the specific disease that you have had. It does not make it easier for the body to respond to other kinds of infections.
The measles virus actually seriously damages and suppresses the whole immune system. Measles infection destroys the white blood cells that hold the 'immune memory', wiping out our immunity to diseases we have already had. This makes it much more likely that people who have had measles will catch other infections, even ones they have had before. Research published in 2015 found that it can take the body up to three years to recover from this damage. Before a measles vaccine was available, it is estimated that measles was the direct or indirect cause of over half of all childhood deaths from infectious disease.
This is not true. Today more people survive infection because of better medical care and medicines such as antibiotics, but infectious diseases are still dangerous.
People sometimes think that if their child gets a disease like measles or tetanus nowadays, a visit to the doctor or hospital will easily sort it out. In fact many infectious diseases lead to complications that still cannot be treated, even with the best medical care available (for example meningitis, encephalitis - inflammation of the brain - and even pneumonia). Even in countries with good intensive care facilities, 3 in 10 of those who get tetanus will die.
This is true to some extent. In the early part of the 20th century better hygiene and sanitation, clean water and better food all contributed to better health. Smaller families and less crowded living conditions meant that diseases were not passed on so easily. Medicine and supportive care were both improving, so that people who caught a disease were less likely to die, and those who ended up with serious disabilities could be kept alive.
However, without vaccination it would have been impossible to reduce the levels of infectious diseases like measles to almost zero.
For example, before the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1992, there were thousands of cases of Hib disease every year in the UK. Now there are almost none. Living conditions have not really changed since 1992, so the decline in Hib disease can only be down to the vaccine. Improved living conditions have also made almost no impact on chickenpox. This disease is just as common now as it ever was, with an estimated 600,000 cases a year in the UK.
No medicine in the world is 100% effective, but vaccines are more effective than many other medicines (up to 99.7% in the case of the measles vaccine). It is true that not all vaccines give lifelong protection, and that some individuals may be better protected than others, but there are several things to bear in mind:
For more information on why we still get outbreaks of infectious disease in populations where most people get their routine vaccinations, see our page on Disease in Vaccinated Populations.