On the Origins of Herd Immunity

When did we start talking about herd immunity?

“Though coined almost a century ago[8], the term “herd immunity” was not widely used until recent decades, its use stimulated by the increasing use of vaccines, discussions of disease eradication, and analyses of the costs and benefits of vaccination programs.”

Fine et al on “Herd Immunity”: A Rough Guide

Paul Fine’s “almost a century ago reference” was by William Whiteman Carlton Topley and Sir Graham Selby Wilson, The Spread of Bacterial Infection. The Problem of Herd-Immunity, published in 1923.

It has long been thought that Topley and Wilson first used the term herd immunity back in 1923.

An article in Lancet, Some Fundamental Factors Concerned in the Spread of Infectious Disease, published in 1924 does give Topley and Wilson credit for coming up with the term.

On the Origins of Herd Immunity

That wasn’t when the term herd immunity was first used though.

There are earlier references.

There is a reference to herd immunity in the Oregon Agricultural College Experiment Station Director’s Report 1918-1920.

An article about natural herd immunity was published in 1921.
They are talking about brucellosis, which is now a vaccine-preventable disease in cattle.

The report, published in 1921, was talking about natural herd immunity.

In an even earlier report of the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University for the year 1916 to 1917, R.R. Birch used the term when talking about vaccinating pigs against cholera.

This report about herd immunity and vaccines was published in 1918.

His report, Garbage Feeding, and the Care of Garbage Fed Swine, was published in 1918.

“If properly carried out, a large proportion of each infected herd should be saved and become exceptionally valuable on account of the immunity which would be established.”

Melvin et al on The Control of Hog Cholera, With a Discussion of the Results of Field Experiments

A 1917 book, Contagious Abortion of Cattle, also talked about natural herd immunity.

“Thus a herd immunity seems to have developed as the result both of keeping the aborting cows and raising the calves. Therefore it seems safest for a herd owner to raise his own calves and avoid bringing in new infection.”

Adolph Eichhorn and George M. Potter on the Contagious Abortion of Cattle

Are there any earlier uses of the term herd immunity?

Just a year earlier, Adolph Eichhorn and George M. Potter used the term during a presentation at a meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association in Detroit, Michigan.

“A definite herd immunity seems to have been established. This has an important bearing upon control measures, and is the principle underlying one of our recommendations which will be referred to later. Moreover, the work of the English commission has shown that a serviceable degree of immunity can be induced by the injection of living organisms several weeks before breeding.”

Eichhorn and Potter on The Present Status of the Abortion Question

Still, it is said that Wilson originally got the idea for herd immunity from Major Greenwood, the foremost medical statistician in the UK.

Is this the English Commission that Eichhorn and Potter were talking about?

“Wilson later recalled that he had first heard the phrase “herd immunity” in the course of a conversation with Major Greenwood…”

Paul Fine on Herd Immunity: History, Theory, Practice

When would they have had that conversation?

They were both Fellows of the Royal Society and after World War I, were working quite near each other in London. Major Greenwood was at the Lister Institute and Wilson at Charing Cross Hospital medical school.

It is also possible that Greenwood, Wilson, and Topley could have talked during WWI. Greenwood and Wilson served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and Topley in the British Sanitary Commission. Before the war, both Greenwood and Topley had started working in London around 1910, and may have talked about herd immunity then.

Whoever first coined the term, it is clear that many of the first reports about herd immunity were about vaccine induced herd immunity. And that those that discussed natural herd immunity stressed that it could only work in a closed system.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a closed system, which is why natural immunity doesn’t really work. As new babies are born without immunity and their maternal immunity wears off and people visit from outside the community who may reintroduce disease, you will get outbreaks. At least you will unless everyone is vaccinated and protected and until you eradicate the disease.

More on Herd Immunity

New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2020

New York and Maine passed new vaccine laws in 2019.

They join California, Mississippi, and West Virginia as the only states that do not allow either religious or personal belief vaccine exemptions.

Washington also passed a law removing non-medical vaccine exemptions in 2019, but only for the MMR vaccine. And New Jersey passed a law mandating meningococcal vaccines for college students, something that is still only required in fewer than half of states.

New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2020

So what can we expect in 2020?

Remember, it was a record setting year for measles in the United States. The worst since 1992…

Surprisingly, in addition to some bills calling for stronger vaccine protections, there are others trying to weaken existing laws!

Does House Majority Leader Lee Qualm have any idea why we ever started to have school vaccination requirements?
Does House Majority Leader Lee Qualm have any idea why we ever started to have school vaccination requirements?

Yes, in South Dakota, someone is actually proposing that they do away with school vaccine requirements!

Fortunately, most vaccine bills in the rest of the country would actually help protect our kids from vaccine-preventable diseases.

  • HB 103 in Alabama would require health care providers to report and check the state immunization registry before giving a vaccine
  • HB 2429 in Arizona would require that schools post immunization rates for their students on their websites
  • SB 163 in Colorado would create a standardized vaccine exemption form and require parents to complete an online education module before obtaining a non-medical exemption
  • HB 5044 in Connecticut would require insurance companies to cover a 20 minute consultant about vaccines
  • HB 5044 in Connecticut would strengthen medical exemptions and eliminate religious exemptions to school immunization requirements.
  • DC B23-0171 in the District of Columbia, the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2019, would allow a minor to be vaccinated if they “comprehend the need for, the nature of, and any significant risks inherent” to getting their vaccines.
  • HB 825 in Florida would allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to kids who are at least 7 years old – a watered down version of the original bill that would have allowed pharmacists to give any vaccine to children
  • SB 64 in Florida would eliminate religious exemptions to vaccine requirements to attend school and create a medical exemption review panel to review all medical exemptions
  • SB 674 in Florida would require a minimum percentage of children in child care facilities to be vaccinated
  • HB 615 in Georgia would allow minors who are at least 16 years old to be vaccinated without parental consent.
  • SB 3668 in Illinois would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines and allow minors who are at least 14 years old to be vaccinated without parental consent
  • HB 4870 in Illinois would require HPV vaccines for students entering 6th grade.
  • HF 206 in Iowa would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines to attend school
  • HB 87 in Maryland would allow mature minors who are at least 16 years old to be vaccinated.
  • H.3999 in Massachusetts would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines to attend school
  • H.4096/S.2359 in Massachusetts would standardize immunization requirements and the exemption processes and give the Department of Public Health authority to collect immunization data statewide.
  • S.1264 in Massachusetts would add the HPV vaccine to the vaccines required to attend school
  • HB 4610 in Michigan would require schools to post signs if more than 5% of students in a school aren’t vaccinated
  • HB 1581 in Missouri would allow a minor to get vaccinated, without needing a parent to give consent.
  • S902 and A969 in New Jersey would only allow medical exemptions and if a sibling had a vaccine injury
  • S1013/A2673 in New Jersey would create a public awareness campaign concerning the importance of getting vaccinated and protected.
  • A1603 in New Jersey would require HPV vaccines for kids in middle and high school.
  • S4244/A6564 in New York would allow minors who are at least 14 years old to be vaccinated without needing a parent to give consent
  • S298/A2912 in New York would require HPV vaccines for kids born after January 1, 2009.
  • HB 1771 in Pennsylvania would require parents seeking a religious or philosophical exemption to get an annual medical consultation to understand the existing threats to children’s health from communicable diseases, and to get briefed on potentials for school exclusion and quarantine, in the case of outbreaks.
  • SB 653 in Pennsylvania would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines to attend school
  • H 684/S 314 in Vermont would allow minors who are at least 12 years old to get the hepatitis B and HPV vaccines and preventative services for STIs without needing a parent to give consent
  • H 622 in Vermont would suspend religious exemptions for vaccines if the immunizations in a school went below 95 percent.
  • HB 1090 in Virginia would continue to allow non-medical exemptions, but would now mandate all of the vaccines on the current CDC immunization schedule, except the seasonal flu vaccine
  • AB 863 in Wisconsin would allow minors who are at least 16 years old to be vaccinated without needing a parent to give consent
  • AB 248/SB 262 in Wisconsin would eliminate personal belief exemptions for vaccinations

Don’t want to see any new vaccine laws or mandates in your area?

Bob Sears warned us that we would see outbreaks if too many people listened to his advice...
Bob Sears warned us that we would see outbreaks if too many people listened to his advice…

Stop spreading misinformation and propaganda about vaccines that scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. That’s what leads to lower immunization rates, which causes disease outbreaks, and gets you stronger vaccine laws.

Instead, be a vaccine advocate and make sure your state legislators know that you support strong vaccine laws that will keep us all protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, even as more and more folks try and abuse vaccine exemptions.

More on New Vaccine Bills and Laws

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis With Vaccines Works

You know that vaccines can work to prevent you from getting an infection (pre-exposure prophylaxis), but did you know that some vaccines work even after you have been exposed to a disease?

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis With Vaccines Works

That’s right, some vaccines work as post-exposure prophylaxis too!

Post-exposure prophylaxis can help prevent tetanus infections. Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)
Post-exposure prophylaxis can help prevent tetanus infections. Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

It’s especially helpful for those diseases that have a long incubation period.

“People exposed to measles who cannot readily show that they have evidence of immunity against measles should be offered post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or be excluded from the setting (school, hospital, childcare). To potentially provide protection or modify the clinical course of disease among susceptible persons, either administer MMR vaccine within 72 hours of initial measles exposure, or immunoglobulin (IG) within six days of exposure.”

CDC on Measles for Healthcare Professionals

In addition to measles, post-exposure prophylaxis can work for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, and tetanus.

With hepatitis B, rabies, and tetanus, after exposure, you would typically also get a dose of immunoglobulin, in addition to a hepatitis B, rabies, or tetanus vaccines (DTaP or Tdap). With hepatitis A, immunoglobulin is typically only given if you are at high risk for a severe infection.

Why not just get immunoglobulin, which is basically a big shot of antibodies?

“Human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) is administered only once, at the beginning of anti-rabies prophylaxis, to previously unvaccinated persons. This will provide immediate antibodies until the body can respond to the vaccine by actively producing antibodies of its own.”

CDC on Human Rabies Immune Globulin

It’s because the passive protection that you get from the antibodies in the immunoglobulin will quickly wear off, often sooner than your body clears the virus that you were exposed to.

Getting a vaccine at the same time helps make sure that you are making your own antibodies to keep you protected when that happens.

Unfortunately, post-exposure prophylaxis with a vaccine doesn’t work for most other vaccine preventable diseases. Those who are unvaccinated and high risk can get protection against chickenpox (VariZIG) though.

Want to make sure you are protected? Get vaccinated well before you are ever exposed to measles, chickenpox, hepatitis A or B, and other vaccine preventable diseases.

More on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Who Are the Religious Leaders Who Are Against Vaccines?

Since no major religion is against vaccines, why do we still sometimes hear about religious leaders who are against vaccines?

Well, maybe not leaders…

Who Are the Religious Leaders Who Are Against Vaccines?

It is important to understand that the great majority of true religious leaders advocate for vaccines.

The Catholic Church supports and encourages families to vaccinate and protect their kids.
The Catholic Church supports and encourages families to vaccinate and protect their kids.

And the ones who don’t aren’t following traditional teachings.

Is the National Catholic Bioethics Center misinformed about actual church teachings on vaccines when they say Catholics have "no proper grounds for refusing immunization?" Is the Pontifical Academy for Life???
Is the National Catholic Bioethics Center misinformed about actual church teachings on vaccines when they say Catholics have “no proper grounds for refusing immunization?” Is the Pontifical Academy for Life???

For example, Father Michael Copenhagen, a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton, directly contradicts what the Catholic Church has said about vaccines.

“Applying a thorough moral analysis, many Catholics and conscientious people see clear immediate forced cooperation in the intrinsic evils of theft, desecration, experimentation and trafficking of human remains obtained through violence to produce the product. And this is one of a number of complex moral issues, including STD vaccines, and those which constitute extraordinary means, defined as those where there is no moral obligation to receive them.”

Father Michael Copenhagen Testimony at NJ Senate Hearing—12/12/2019

Instead, he echos anti-vaccine talking points about forced vaccination and minimizes the danger that clusters of unvaccinated students have to cause outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.

“Consent means nothing if there is no right of refusal, and you would make the price of refusal a permanent state of segregation, isolation, and banishment when there is not even a temporary claimed (public health or infectious disease) crisis.”

Father Michael Copenhagen Testimony at NJ Senate Hearing—12/12/2019

Father Michael Copenhagen is speaking for himself and not for the Catholic Church.

“These are not only principles of faith, or even ethics, these are principles of sanity. If you pass this measure, you bear for all time the full weight and moral responsibility for outlawing the full public practice of the Catholic Faith, for coercion which fundamentally subverts the moral law and rights of citizens, and undermines the very nature of your own elected office, which is to preserve the good, not to dissolve it.”

Father Michael Copenhagen Testimony at NJ Senate Hearing—12/12/2019

Speaking of ethics and morals…

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center FAQ on the Use of Vaccines

Unfortunately, Father Copenhagan isn’t the only one out there distorting religious ideas about vaccines.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky has called vaccines a hoax.
Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky has called vaccines a hoax.

For example, while some Orthodox Jewish communities were recently trying to control their large measles outbreaks, there were a few rabbis, including Rabbi Hillel Handler and Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who were actively advocating against vaccines!

“This is all being orchestrated by the drug companies, which are very close to the CDC,” Handler told the crowd in a gender-segregated room at a catering hall in the Midwood neighborhood. “The doctors all march in lockstep with the CDC. The doctors don’t think they’re marching in lockstep. They don’t understand that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, is a totally corrupt swamp. … They are criminals.”

Gospels and child sacrifice: Inside a NYC ultra-Orthodox anti-vaccination rally

These outbreaks were the largest and the longest in the United States in at least 28 years.

And the overwhelming response from religious leaders were that those who were not vaccinating and protecting their kids were “Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less! and Reckless!”

“We are obliged by the Torah “Venishmartem Meod L’nafshoseichem,” – “to guard our health” and if the recognized experts are telling us to vaccinate, then we must do it.”

Der Yid Newspaper – Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless

Hopefully everyone is getting that message and they aren’t listening to the very small minority of religious leaders who are against vaccines, even if they are quite vocal.

Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”
Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”

Because we know what happens when people do and they aren’t vaccinated and protected…

“Dr. Clymer was Director General of the Church from 1905 to his death in 1966. Following the footsteps of Dr. Wilder, in 1904, he authored his first text on this subject, Vaccination Brought Home to You. He further reiterated the Church’s tenet that immunizations are a form of spiritual blood pollution in The Book of Rosicrucaie, Volume II (1947) and the now out of print book, Age of Treason (1957).”

The Church of Illumination Tenet on Vaccination and Immunization

Are these really the religious leaders you want to listen to?

More on Vaccines and Religion