Herd Immunity: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

Have you ever heard the phrase “strength in numbers”? Vaccines work the same way:

Herd Immunity, Community Immunity, or the Herd Effect is a phenomena seen when a high percentage of individuals within a population have developed immunity to a pathogen. Because so many people within the community are unable to contract the disease or virus, this reduces the likelihood that those who have not developed immunity will contract the disease.

There are two ways to obtain immunity from a virus or bacteria: infection or vaccination. Comparatively, vaccination is the safer, more effective path, as it provides immunity without illness. On a larger scale, vaccinated individuals have not only protected themselves, but contributed to overall public health as they cannot pass the disease to someone who is not immune to the specific disease.

The concept of Herd Immunity relies on a threshold of immune individuals.

A certain percentage of people within a community need to be immunized in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

In order to establish this threshold, epidemiologists use a formula to determine how many unprotected individuals could contract an illness from one infected individual entering the community.

This number varies by disease, depending on risk of infection and mode of disease transmission. Highly contagious airborne diseases, like measles, require threshold immunity of 95%. Polio, which is slightly less contagious, requires a lower threshold – between 80-85%.

Why is Herd Immunity important?

While vaccination is safe for most individuals, there are certain portions of the population who cannot receive certain vaccines. Those with compromised immune systems – due to age or illness – as well as those who are allergic to ingredients in a vaccine benefit from the protection of herd immunity.

A prime example of this effect is the chickenpox. When the vaccine was released in 1995, an average of 4 million people suffered from the disease. In the first twelve years, death from the chickenpox declined 88%, and those under the age of 50 saw a 97% decline in contraction of the disease. Although the vaccine is not administered to infants under twelve months old, there was not a single infantile death from chickenpox in the US between 2004 and 2007. Because those around them had been vaccinated, these children were safe from the disease.

For members of the community who have suffered an injury as a result of vaccination, compensation is available through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Illustration of herd immunity among vaccinated individuals

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

Vaccines are an important part of public health, working to save lives by preventing disease. Most of the time, vaccines are administered without any serious problems. Like with any medication, however, there is a risk of side effects, ranging from mild to serious.

For this reason, the US government created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), a “no-fault” alternative to the traditional legal system. Petitions can be filed by any individual, at any age, after developing an injury believed to be a result of a covered vaccine, if jurisdictional requirements are met.

Conway Homer, P.C. is the most experienced vaccine injury law firm in the United States. We represent clients from all 50 states and have advocated for landmark cases that have shaped the Vaccine Program and made it friendlier and more generous to those individuals who suffer from vaccine injuries.

To get in touch with our dedicated team, click here for a free consultation.

Conway Homer attorneys specializing in vaccine injury litigation