Interactive Labs

Disease Lab

Lessons > Vaccination > Step 3

In the United States in recent years, there has been increasing public resistance to vaccination, especially against measles and influenza. The reasons are complex, including religious objections, health care access and costs, a lack of public confidence in the annual influenza vaccine, and an assumption that “vanquished” diseases such as polio and measles are no longer a threat. But these diseases have not been eradicated. People die of them every year. By keeping vaccination rates high, we've enjoyed “herd immunity”, where a high proportion of immune individuals block disease propagation. This protects weaker, more susceptible members of society who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants in the case of measles. Lower vaccination rates reduce our herd immunity.

In this step, using Neasles to stand in for measles, explore on your own to see why it is that Neasles requires a high vaccination rate to prevent deaths. Then answer the following:

  1. What is it about Neasles that requires a high vaccination rate to prevent deaths?
  2. Although more people die of influenza each year, they are largely the elderly and infirm, while measles is more likely to kill infants. Does this affect the popular will to control the two diseases?
  3. Many families do not have health insurance or the means to pay for a vaccine. Would it be in the best interest of the overall population to provide free immunization to those who cannot afford it? What are some counter-arguments to doing so?