Arguing for vaccines for benefit of herd-immunity

Kassidy Crown

Autoimmune perspective helpful when discussing pros of being vaccinated

 

As the cold and flu season continues, the debate on whether or not to get vaccinated seems to pop up all over Facebook and other social media.

There are many unsupported arguments against getting vaccinated that circulate the internet.

However, there is another, far more important, argument in favor of getting vaccines that should be highly considered: herd immunity.

Herd immunity is the indirect protection of those who have not had their vaccines, those who are not immune or for those who do not get the same level of protection from vaccines.

I have two autoimmune diseases: Ulcerative Colitis and Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP).

Autoimmune diseases are when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.
ITP, is a condition in which there is a severe depletion of platelets in the body. It is caused by the autoimmune system attacking the platelets in your blood.

A normal range for the number of platelets in someone without ITP is 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood.

In a patient with ITP, dropping below 10,000 is considered dangerous.

At one point, I had only 8,000 platelets per microliter of blood in my body.

This is incredibly dangerous, as platelets help form clots to stop bleeding. In a person with ITP, that can lead to life-threatening bleeding issues.

Because of these autoimmune diseases, I need to take a variety of medications that are classified as immunosuppressants.

In short, these medications aim to suppress my immune system so that it will not attack the healthy cells in my body.

But by doing this, the medications also act as a suppressant to the normal functions of my immune system; it is not just impeded from attacking my healthy cells, but also foreign and infectious cells.

This leads to a higher risk of cancer, among other issues.

So how does all this information relate to herd immunity?

Due to my suppressed immune system, vaccines often do not have the full effect that someone without autoimmune diseases would get.

When I get sick, which is more often, I am also sick longer than others.

Herd immunity acts as a buffer of sorts for those like me, who get their vaccines, but because of preexisting conditions are not protected to the same degree as someone without these conditions.

The logic of herd immunity is that if enough people get vaccinated, then enough of the population is protected from getting sick, and thus it will also protect those with compromised immune systems.

Essentially, herd immunity is a win-win scenario. You get your vaccines and do not get sick.

I get my vaccines, and because of you, I have a lesser chance of getting sick.

If more people get vaccines, then the larger the herd immunity threshold is, and the less chance that I (or anyone else with autoimmune diseases taking suppressant drugs) come in contact with someone who may be contagious.

I know what you may be thinking, “Yeah, right, whatever, it is just a flu vaccine, I don’t need to get that!”

It’s easy for that thought to then travel to other vaccines, “Polio? That’s pretty much eradicated, there is no need to worry about that one!”

Those thoughts, however, are the exact issue that herd immunity is trying to combat. As soon as we begin to allow ourselves to be lenient with these “eliminated” diseases, we find that they begin to pop back up in the general population.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), for example, have been eliminated in the United States, but still exist in third world countries. This can lead to travelers bringing the diseases back to the States. Since people have become more lenient in their vaccinations, outbreaks are then seen.

When taken from the perspective of someone with an autoimmune disease, these illnesses, which should be eradicated, can potentially lead to life-threatening situations due to the lesser protection we see from vaccines.

At the end of the day, vaccines provide a necessary protection not just against the common flu, but also against much more serious illnesses that people with autoimmune diseases cannot afford to be infected with.

Vaccines not only protect the person who gets the vaccination, but also those who they come in contact with in their everyday lives.

Therefore, it is paramount that vaccinations are administered to add an extra layer of defense for those who are missing that extra protection.