“When it comes to vaccines, I think doctors need to lead by example,” he said.
Most people have never experienced these diseases. As a result, some think they — or their children — need not be concerned about them.
“These illnesses are uncommon because we do vaccinate,” Laufer said.
If you have 100,000 people and 99,000 get vaccinated against a disease, the other 1,000 benefit from the vaccine. This is called “herd immunity.” When 95 percent of the people are vaccinated, your risk of getting the disease is low even if you aren’t vaccinated, Laufer explained.
However if more and more people take advantage of herd immunity and refuse vaccines, eventually only 90 percent of the population will be vaccinated.
“That’s when your exposure rate to the disease itself is higher and you start seeing cases,” Laufer said.
And that’s when an unvaccinated tourist or child infected with the disease can quickly spread it.
“Diseases don’t need visas to enter our country. You don’t know when you are going to be exposed to one,” Laufer said.
For example, on average, 60 people in the United States contract measles each year. But in 2011, there were 222 people who had the disease. Nearly 40 percent of the cases were contracted in other countries. On returning to the U.S., the infected citizens spread the disease, resulting in 17 measles outbreaks across the U.S., according to the CDC.
Today, Southeast Florida is seeing a surprising number of whooping cough cases. According to Garter, there have been 26 cases in Broward and 32 in Miami-Dade through July 9, 2013. Compare that to 2012, when there were only 41,000 cases in the entire nation.
And, of course, those who haven’t been vaccinated are of greater risk as are people with immune-system disorders and those undergoing chemotherapy.
Besides being concerned about the safety of vaccines, some parents worry their children are receiving too many antigens at one time. They worry that their child’s immune system will be overwhelmed.
But since the late 1990s, vaccines have been made with fewer antigens. In fact the whooping cough vaccine used to contain the whole bacteria; today it has only five antigens.
To protect their children from system overload, parents may opt to have them immunized later in life. But, according to Laufer, postponing vaccinations can slightly increase the chances of your child having side effects.
“People worry about vaccines and think about their risks, but they are more at risk driving to the grocery store than they are getting a vaccine,” Garter said.