Protecting Your Child and Your Community
The gift of immunization protects more than your child’s health; it helps stop the spread of illness to your family, your friends and, ultimately, your whole community.
Illnesses that may seem like a harmless nuisance to healthy kids and adults, like the flu, can be devastating to grandparents and babies. During the 2013-2014 flu season, 1,759 people were hospitalized in Colorado due to influenza, and in the 2012-2013 flu season five Colorado children died as a result of influenza. The flu is just one of many vaccine-preventable diseases you can give your child protection against. Choosing to immunize can and does save lives.
Protecting your child through vaccination also protects vulnerable members of your community who cannot receive vaccines. Not everyone is able to be vaccinated, but everyone benefits from vaccination. When more members of a community have been vaccinated, there is less opportunity for disease to spread to at-risk or unvaccinated members of the community. Pregnant women, babies, children and adults who have chronic illness, children with certain allergies, and the elderly all rely on the vaccinated members of their communities to shield them from potentially serious illness. This concept is known as 'herd immunity' or 'community immunity.'
There is a large window of time when infants are too young to be fully protected by vaccines and are especially vulnerable to common diseases like pertussis and the flu. Babies depend on those around them, including parents, caregivers, older siblings, and grandparents for protection from preventable illness. Your doctor may recommend that everyone who comes in contact with your baby get vaccinated against certain diseases. This concept is known as 'cocooning.' When everyone around a baby is vaccinated, they cannot transmit infectious diseases to your baby, forming a human shield which 'cocoons' him or her against illness.
Since the majority of parents, around 90 percent, vaccinate their children, we are able to provide adequate protection for those who cannot be vaccinated. This allows for a very small percentage of children whose parents exempt them from vaccines to be protected as well. Herd immunity is a major factor in ensuring that these children, along with the at-risk members described above, do not encounter vaccine-preventable disease. However, the more children who are exempted from vaccines, the more we open the possibility of allowing diseases such as measles, pertussis and mumps to re-enter our communities. When less than 90 percent of children are immunized in a particular community, these pockets of low vaccination create an environment where infectious disease can take hold and spread.
Unvaccinated children also pose a threat to children with legitimate medical exemptions who cannot be immunized. These are often our most fragile children – children who are battling leukemia, cancer, or HIV. Even children with severe anaphylactic allergies to certain vaccine ingredients, like eggs, may have to go unprotected. They depend on herd immunity and the 'cocooning' vaccination of their close family and friends to create a protective bubble where illnesses cannot spread.
Making the choice to immunize your child gives them the freedom to visit a newborn, learn in a classroom, or spend time with grandparents without fear of becoming infected with and passing on a potentially life-threatening illness. The choice to immunize your child reaches beyond your immediate family; when you choose to protect your child through vaccination, you immunize for the greater good.