In the recent New York Times OpEd, How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers, the editorial board mentioned the 60,000 children in Texas who “remain wholly unvaccinated thanks in part to an aggressive anti-vaccine lobby.”
“But there’s like 74 million children, so I think that’s a pretty small number. I don’t know why you guys are freaking out about 60,000 really healthy babies running around. Do you know?Hillary Simpson
Hillary Simpson obviously doesn’t understand how herd immunity works.
Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?
First things first, though.
Just how many unvaccinated kids are there in Texas? How about the United States?
It is actually hard to know exactly.
In Texas, for instance, while only a small percentage of kids get non-medical vaccine exemptions, with about 7 million children in the state (yes, there are 74 million children in the United States, but that’s not how you measure herd immunity), that adds up to a lot of unvaccinated kids.
In addition to about 60,000 unvaccinated kids in school, there are homeschooled children who aren’t vaccinated.
“We’re probably looking at more than 100,000 kids in the state of Texas who are not getting their vaccines.”Dr. Peter J. Hotez: “A Scary Anti-Science Movement Has Become Very Strong in Texas”
But still, should we be worried about 100,000 unvaccinated kids, when there are 7 million kids in Texas?
Don’t those immunization levels still keep us above herd immunity levels of protection?
Well, they likely would, and this would indeed be less concerning if the unvaccinated children were spread out randomly throughout the entire state. Of course, that’s not what happens and we instead get clusters of unvaccinated children (and adults) in very specific schools, neighborhoods, and even churches.
So while it can seem like we have herd immunity levels of protection at the state or city level because of high average vaccination levels, these pockets of susceptibles who are unvaccinated and live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school (where is the Waldorf school in Texas?) can mean that we don’t have herd immunity in those places, leading to outbreaks.
And that’s why we get concerned about 60 to 100,000 unvaccinated children who:
- are at risk for getting vaccine-preventable diseases because they are unvaccinated and unprotected
- put others at risk if they get sick, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated, and those with true medical exemptions to getting vaccinated
- get no benefit from skipping or delaying their vaccines, just extra risk of getting sick
- are hiding in the herd, free-riding on the protection provided by everyone else being vaccinated
In 2015, for example, only 1.3% of children in the United States had received no vaccines by age 24 months. And more than 90% of children completed their primary series of vaccines.
More on Clusters of Unvaccinated Kids
- VAXOPEDIA – Parents Who Regret Not Vaccinating Their Kids
- VAXOPEDIA – Do Anti-Vaccine Parents Ever Change Their Minds?
- VAXOPEDIA – Is My Fully Vaccinated Child at Risk from Your Unvaccinated Kids?
- VAXOPEDIA – People with Cancer Are at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids
- VAXOPEDIA – Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated – Smallpox Edition
- VAXOPEDIA – Do More Vaccinated or Unvaccinated Kids Get Pertussis?
- VAXOPEDIA – How Can the Unvaccinated Spread Diseases They Don’t Have?
- VAXOPEDIA – Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Smarter Than the Rest of Us?
- VAXOPEDIA – Anti-Vaccine Points Refuted A Thousand Times
- How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers
- Dr. Peter J. Hotez: “A Scary Anti-Science Movement Has Become Very Strong in Texas”
- CDC – Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19–35 Months — United States, 2017
- CDC – Vaccination Coverage for Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2017–18 School Year
- CDC – Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2013–14 School Year
- CDC – ChildVaxView
- CDC – SchoolVaxView
- CDC – TeenVaxView
- What is herd immunity?
- CDC – What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?
- Herd Immunity
- Is herd immunity a myth? A response to Russell Blaylock, Part 1
- Is herd immunity a myth? A response to Russell Blaylock, Part 2
- Vaccines and the price of opting out
- Private School Parents Are Keeping Austin Weird—and Unsafe—by Not Vaccinating Their Kids
- Texas Parents Have Unanswered Questions About School Vaccination Rates
- Vaccination Coverage Levels in Texas Schools