Herd Immunity

The concept of herd immunity is that if enough people (especially children) are vaccinated against a disease there will be no ‘pool’ of disease to catch and the disease will effectively be wiped out.

This is why there is a demand that everybody be vaccinated ‘for the good of the whole’.

Historically this isn’t the case –

For Smallpox

Eradication of smallpox is cited as a success for vaccinationbut the incidence of smallpox actually increased with the widespread use of vaccines, the biggest epidemic occurring some twenty years after vaccination programs were put into effect.

  • Between 1942 and 1962 deaths attributed to the smallpox vaccine exceeded deaths from smallpox itself.12
  • The current smallpox vaccine (stockpiled in many countries) has been diluted 50 times from the original strength yet it was predicted that there would be 2000 deaths if it were given to the entire U.S. population.
  • A 2 year old boy spent 7 weeks in hospital and nearly died from a viral infection (eczema vaccinatum) he developed from the smallpox vaccination his father received.13
  • A recent study found smallpox virus was being shed at the injection site 21 days after the vaccine was administered, potentially spreading the disease. (They stopped testing after 21 days)14


Developed countries have reverted to an injected vaccine because the oral vaccine can cause vaccine associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) and spread the disease to contacts.

Oral polio vaccine is still given in poorer countries in mass vaccination campaigns.

  • In 2007, it was reported that 69 children in Nigeria had developed polio paralysis in the largest outbreak caused by the oral vaccine strain.15
  • An outbreak of polio occurred in a population that had recently raised polio vaccine coverage from 67% to 87% and a large number of fully vaccinated children were involved in spreading the disease.16

There are many reports of polio outbreaks despite these campaigns and experts consider it impossible to eradicate polio through vaccination.


Measles vaccine was first introduced to wipe out the disease by vaccinating the very young. Anyone older would have been exposed to measles and would more than likely have already acquired a natural immunity that would last a lifetime. This is why if you were born before 1966 there is no requirement that you have MMR vaccine.

A booster dose was scheduled when measles outbreaks occurred in vaccinated populations and a ‘catch-up’ school campaign began in 1998 so that students would have had two doses of vaccine; 18-30 year olds were also targeted.

  • “Among school age children, (measles) outbreaks have occurred in schools with vaccination levels of greater than 98%. These outbreaks have occurred in all parts of the country, including areas that had not reported measles for years.17
  • Given as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, recent cases of mumps despite two doses of vaccine have prompted a call for a third shot to be scheduled in America.18
  • Before and after pregnancy women are targeted for MMR if their rubella antibody levels are low, many given thevaccine repeatedly. The effect on health of repeated vaccinations has not been studied.

As the vaccinated population ages they are left with no lasting immunity to measles, mumps or rubella and they arestill at risk of the disease.

Whooping Cough

In 2006 a U.K. study advised doctors to consider a diagnosis of whooping cough in children with a cough lasting two or more weeks, finding that 55 out of 64 children with evidence of whooping cough infection had been fully ‘immunised’.19

This has been the case for some time –

  • A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that whooping cough infections ‘are common in an immunised population’.20
  • Dutch scientists struggled to identify the exact cause of an epidemic of whooping cough that swept through the country despite vaccination rates as high as 96%. Similar problems were also reported from Norway and Denmark.21
  • Vaccinations against whooping cough are recommended for teenagers and adults who are spreading infection and are the ‘primary reservoir’ for the disease.22

The claim that if you are vaccinated and still contract the disease it will be in a milder form has not been measured.

Mass vaccination does not achieve the desired herd immunity and also does not account for the way different individuals respond to disease.

  • Not everyone who is exposed to a disease will contract it but everyone given a vaccine is exposed to the risk of developing, harbouring and spreading the disease vaccinated for.
  • Herd Immunity assumes that everyone will have the same response to a vaccine, regardless of age, weight (especially premature babies), race, culture, diet, environment and general health.
  • The immune system is not developed in infants and children. Extra doses of some vaccines are scheduled for premature babies because their immune systems do not respond (measurably) to vaccines.

12 The Future of Smallpox Vaccination, The Lancet 21 March 1964, p.649
13 Soldier’s Smallpox inoculation Sickens Son, The New York Times, 18/5/2007
14 Vaccinia Persists for Weeks at Smallpox Vaccination Site, Reuters Health Information Services, 1/30/08
17 Officials say drug caused Nigeria polio, Associated Press, October 5th 2007
16 Sutter et al, Outbreak of paralytic poliomyelitis in Oman; evidence for widespread transmission among fully vaccinated children, The Lancet, 1991; 338; 715-720
17 Measles Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 1989, Dec
29; 38 Suppl. 9: 1-18
18 Outbreak Reveals Weakness in Mumps Vaccine, Study Says, Boston Globe (04/10/08) Johnson, Linda A19 Whooping cough in school age children with persistent cough; prospective cohort study in primary care, BMJ 7/7/2006
20 Whooping cough infections are common in an immunised population, JAMA 1998; 280:635-637
21 Shelton T., Dutch whooping cough epidemic puzzles scientists, BMJ, Jan 10 1998;316(7125):92
22 Spearing et al, Pertussis: adults as a source in healthcare settings, MJA 2002;177(10):568- 569

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