How to know if your community—and your child—is protected
Recently, community immunization rates have caused a stir, leaving many moms worried about the risk of contracting an infectious disease. Illnesses long thought to be eradicated through universal vaccinations, such as the measles and pertussis, have been cropping up, raising the question: How can one tell if one’s community is safe?
Although public-health experts say there is no cause for alarm, there is some cause for concern. Here are basic facts about community immunity we all should know:
- 90%: The vaccination rate that must exist for a community to be protected. If it's lower than 90%, community outbreaks can occur.
- 14%: The percentage of schools that have vaccination rates lower than 90%. That means 1 in 7 schools may be at risk.
- Clusters: People who choose not to vaccinate their children tend to live near each other. Public-health officials view these clusters as being at risk for an outbreak. These clusters tend to be in neighborhoods with higher levels of income and education.
- At risk: Newborns, the medically vulnerable (people who are unable to get vaccinated due to medical reasons), and the elderly are at greatest risk of contracting infectious diseases that vaccinations prevent.
- Are you protected? Most adults under the age of 65 have received the recommended schedule of vaccinations to be protected. But if you have any concerns (and do not have access to your medical records), talk to your doctor about whether you should consider new shots or get a blood titer to determine your immunity.
- More information: States, counties, cities, and school districts vary on how they track and report vaccination rates. A good place to start is your child’s school-district website or your state’s public-health department. For more information, visit these websites:
Beyond the individual decision about whether you choose to immunize your child, it’s good to know where your school or neighborhood stands on vaccination rates. Hopefully, the information provided here will make it easier for you to find out.
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