Vaccines: Everyday Miracles

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Friday, April 19, 2019


Vaccines are a miraculous modern invention. They improve the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people inarguably. Vaccines enable people to be much more productive and, consequently, generate more utility for our society.

When vaccinations and their merits (or lack thereof) are discussed, people eagerly give their opinions or share personal anecdotes, but few share facts. Unfortunately, the emotional components of a story are often more compelling than facts and can sway people to reach a different conclusion than they would have had they been presented the facts.

In their prime, measles, whooping cough, and polio were common, global threats. People all across the world lived in fear of themselves or their children succumbing to the effects of these diseases. Families avoided areas known for infection like groups of people or puddles on the sidewalk. Then vaccines were created to protect an individual, their family, and their community from the scourge of numerous diseases that presented a serious risk to people in their absence.

The modern vaccine is still relatively quite new. Vaccines for smallpox were created in the early 1800s, but the development of new vaccines was stalled until the late 1940s when medical technology had advanced far enough to truly begin disease control efforts. From that point, the world changed in a variety of ways.

People weren’t burdened with heavy costs and risks associated with living and rearing children anymore. Parents could simply inoculate themselves and their children. To them, the miraculous nature of vaccines was too obvious, which fueled their initial popularity. Vaccines became requirements for many public schools and companies.

One of the more remarkable aspects of vaccines to date is that vaccinations can protect those who are unable to be vaccinated, like those who are immuno-compromised due to immunological disorders or cancer treatments. This is done through herd immunity, which is defined as the immunity of a vaccinated group protecting a non-vaccinated member within the group, by preventing the disease from penetrating the herd.

Those who are not vaccinated rely on herd immunity. It is clear that the individuals relying on herd immunity out of convenience are not only free-riding but putting themselves and the most vulnerable at risk of exposure and infection. Their thought is that, if the diseases are rare today, why vaccinate? This is illogical because the probability of disease contraction is always changing and fewer people being vaccinated increase the chance of an outbreak.

Individuals also don’t have all of the necessary information to estimate their probability of contraction accurately; it wouldn’t be surprising for an unvaccinated city dweller to be infected unwittingly by a person from another country who had been exposed. Almost as if to prove a point in 2019, this occurred in a New York Hasidic community with the measles.

This is what is true about vaccines: those who are vaccinated are freer from risk and therefore enabled to be more productive. By increasing productivity, vaccines have significantly increased the quality of life we enjoy today. Regardless of how many people in society have been vaccinated, the real benefits to the treated individual stay the same: the individual gains disease immunity and freedom from risks of and associated with contraction.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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