In the Herd.

By Katerina Christofides

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Herd immunity, its been talked about, been used to justify many agendas, but what does it actually mean in real terms? Why is it so important?

So, immunology 101- herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from disease. When you have a large percentage in a population immunized against a disease, those very few who for some reason do not have immunity are protected by the “herd”.  There are many reasons why someone may not have immunity other than not having a vaccine. For example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, many common medications compromise the immune system, pregnancy, the elderly, young babies etc. The problem is, herd immunity only works if the far majority have immunity.

In communities where people object to immunization, there has been a resurgence in communicable diseases once thought extinct, due to the herd shrinking and no longer protecting others. So what does this mean if I choose to not immunise? The reality is, there is no such thing as pro-choice. It is a clickbait style catch phrase, cheesier than a politicians three syllable slogan. Fact is, someone is always telling you what to do, whether it’s the government, society, or new age bloggers trying to sell you snake oil. Everyone has an agenda, even a parent choosing not to vaccinate is telling their child what to do. At the end, children and those who medically have compromised immune systems have no choice but to be at the mercy of society.

So where does that leave our most vulnerable? We all talk about it, but what does this all mean in reality? When I was pregnant with my twins, I unknowingly came into contact with someone who had shingles. They knew they had it, didn’t quarantine themselves , were not immunised, and didn’t think it was a big deal. They couldn’t see the disease, and didn’t realise how easy it is to pass on to others. I became very ill, went into premature labour, and my twins were in neonatal intensive care, clinging to life. When they were born, they weren’t breathing and needed life support, were flown out before I could see them via helicopter to another hospital that could help them. They were in intensive care for 6 weeks in total, had meningitis (swelling on the brain from a viral infection) and many underdeveloped organs due to being so premature and small. Thankfully, to the efforts of the amazing medical team, they recovered and eventually came home. I witnessed other families that unfortunately were not so lucky and their babies did not survive, or became severely disabled as a result.

What id like to get across, is that herd immunity is real, immune compromised people are out there, and it is our collective duty to protect them. With all the debate, talk, and crazy stuff on the net, we sometimes need to come back to reality, forget all the fake anecdotal stuff and not think of immunization as an “us versus them” argument. Although society embraces conspiracy theories and government suspicion, we need to remind ourselves of the effects in the real world.