Friday, January 31, 2020

Texas Physicians Explain Herd Immunity Needed to Fight Contagious-Disease Hotspots

Editor's Note: This video is part of a monthly Texas Medical Association series highlighting infectious diseases that childhood and adult vaccinations can prevent. posts a video about a different disease/public health issue each month. Some of the recent topics featured include benefits of vaccinations, and how vaccines work. Previously we featured posts on FluMeaslesPneumococcal diseaseHuman papillomavirus (HPV)Chickenpox and shinglesPertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis ARubella (also known as German measles), RotavirusPolioMumpsTetanusHepatitis B, and Meningococcal BDiphtheria, and pregnancy and vaccines.

TMA designed the series to inform people of the facts about these diseases and to help them understand the benefits of vaccinations to prevent illness. Visit the TMA website to see news releases and more information about these diseases, as well as physicians' efforts to raise immunization awareness.

Video: What's Herd (Community) Immunity? A Physician Explains How It Protects Us

When you vaccinate, you protect not only yourself from contagious disease, you also play a role in protecting those nearest you and the community.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, is the concept of increasing everyone's protection against disease by vaccinating enough people in a community. Austin pediatrician and Texas Medical Association physician leader Ari Brown, MD, describes herd immunity using an umbrella analogy.

"Think of germs like the rain," said Dr. Brown in this TMA video. "When you get vaccinated you're actually putting on a raincoat to protect yourself [from disease-causing antigens]. But the best way to protect yourself is to have an umbrella AND a raincoat. You can't get that umbrella by yourself though. The entire community has to come together to buy that umbrella - and the way they do that is by vaccinating themselves, and that provides best protection for everybody."

Community immunity also shields people who are unable to get vaccinated because they are too young, have certain diseases, or their immunity has worn off.

When most people in a community are immunized, outbreaks like the nationwide measles outbreaks in 2019 are avoided. So many people are vaccinated the disease can't easily spread from person to person.

Many people who reject vaccines, while shielded by community immunity, actually endanger it by creating vaccine-free hotspots, which lead to disease outbreaks. While Texas requires vaccination for enrollment in public schools, some exemptions exist. Texas is one of 18 states that allows parents to opt of mandatory school vaccinations due to reasons of conscience.
Current Texas hotspots (where lower vaccination rates exist) include Collin, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis Counties – all which have a higher risk of seeing measles break out because community immunity is at risk there.

"So the best way to protect you and your family is to get vaccinated, but make sure that your neighbors and your classmates do the same," Dr. Brown said.

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