Lack of vaccinations may hurt ‘herd immunity’

USA Today‘s Liz Szabo writes about experts’ fears that unvaccinated children will lead to outbreaks of some infectious diseases.

Experts say that parents may be reducing children’s “herd immunity” – keeping germs out of circulation by vaccinating kids. As an example, Szabo tells the story of one child who has a rare immune deficiency and developed meningitis.

Thanks to the success of vaccines, few parents today know anyone who has become sick with a serious contagious disease, says William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Instead, parents are often concerned about chronic illnesses, such as asthma, allergies or autism, which don’t have a clear cause.

Szabo cites statistics from The New England Journal of Medicine that show the number of children who are exempt from immunization requirements has gone up 50 percent from 1991 to 2004.

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