Why do we need to keep vaccinating if the disease is “gone”?

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The short answer?

The diseases are not gone.

The long answer?

It’s true that diseases we vaccinate against are becoming very rare in developed parts of the world, however, we owe that to a number of factors. We wash our hands, clean our food and the things we encounter, take precautions with the sick because we are for the most part informed people, but the biggest reason of all why these diseases are scarce is because we vaccinate and we keep vaccinating.

I absolutely love this analogy from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

“It’s much like bailing out a boat with a slow leak. When we started bailing, the boat was filled with water. But we have been bailing fast and hard, and now it is almost dry. We could say, ‘Good. The boat is dry now, so we can throw away the bucket and relax.’ But the leak hasn’t stopped. Before long we’d notice a little water seeping in, and soon it might be back up to the same level as when we started.”

If we don’t completely stop the leak, then the water will seep back in and we will drown.

The water in this analogy is the disease. We as a community used to be covered in disease. And then we started vaccinating (using the bucket) and emptying the disease from the community. But the disease is not gone; we are floating on it, mostly safe because we are vaccinated. But should we decide we no longer need vaccines, the disease will creep back through that leak and the will be swimming in it.

It only takes a small pocket population in a community with people gone unvaccinated to create a leak. Creeping into this leak, the disease will spread to those left unvaccinated, with wained immunity due to incomplete vaccination or age, and who are immunocompromised–babies, young children, the elderly, and those who are unable to get vaccines due to illnesses. These major diseases can kill, wound, and scar with life-long consequences and the people mentioned above are at the highest risk. By keeping the vaccination rates up we are protecting so many more than just ourselves.

Those diseases are out there, folks. Just because you aren’t seeing or hearing about them in your neighborhood doesn’t mean they don’t exist. People all over the world are still catching and sometimes dying from these preventable diseases. Many would be thrilled to get the vaccines you may decide not to get.

In this day and age, our world is small–the disease may be just a plane ride away.

Let’s not toss out our buckets!

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