Editorial | Your vaccinations help others protect themselves

Last Friday, a second Massmail regarding a reported case of measles on campus was sent out to the student body.

Measles, the world’s leading cause of vaccine-preventable childhood mortality, is an airborne virus that is transmitted through sick individuals by coughing, sneezing and contact with mucous membranes (like the eyes and mouth). The virus can remain in the air up to two hours after coughing or sneezing, and is so contagious that, if one person has it, 90 percent of unvaccinated people around the infected person will also contract it.

In simple terms, vaccines work by creating an immune response to a version of the virus that won’t make you sick. The viral particles in a vaccine dose are inactive and trigger the immune system to act as ailment-causing pathogens — creating a supply of antibodies that will recognize the disease if you were to ever encounter it.

The most common myth about vaccines is they cause autism. This stems from a 1998 article in “The Lancet” that claimed to have studied children whose parents’ associated their various developmental diseases with vaccines. However, it later was revealed that this fallacious study was partially funded by lawyers representing those parents in lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.

The results of this “study” have never been successfully replicated, and in 2010, “The Lancet” retracted the article. On top of that, the British General Medical Council found the paper’s author “had acted unethically and had shown ‘callous disregard’ for the children in his study,” further showcasing the invalidity of autism-vaccine claim.

A more important, and more real, consequence of not getting vaccinated is jeopardizing the herd immunity of the community.Herd immunity — the concept that everyone who can get vaccinated to protect those who can’t — is severely weakened when people able to receive vaccines don’t, creating a larger pool of people who can become infected.

It’s easy to forget that campus is not just an 18-22 year old population; some students on this campus suffer from autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, systemic lupus and multiple sclerosis. In many cases, people suffering from autoimmune diseases cannot be vaccinated because they are at greater risk of contracting the virus they are being vaccinated for.

The Daily Illini Editorial Board is calling on students to make sure they are properly vaccinated to protect those who cannot otherwise protect themselves. Herd immunity protects the elderly, young children who can’t yet get vaccinated and immunocompromised people, all of which exist in both our campus community and Champaign-Urbana at large.