Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination


Herd immunity: Obukhanich Tetyana (USA) – PhD in Immunology from Rockefeller University, studied at Harvard and Stanford Universities. Author of The Vaccine Illusion: How Vaccination Destroys Our Natural Immunity and What We Can Do to Restore Health (2012) and numerous publications on the dangers and ineffectiveness of vaccinations. While outbreaks of childhood illnesses such as measles have been completely suppressed in some regions by sustained mass vaccination efforts, we are constantly reminded that declining child vaccination rates in the population are associated with the risk of disease recurrence, with potentially dire consequences for infants and people with weakened immunity. We are also convinced that strict adherence to the vaccination schedule will prevent outbreaks and protect through the herd immunity effect of children.



Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination



Undoubtedly, an outbreak could occur in a population that is not immune to a particular disease if a virus enters it. But the question remains how well strict adherence to the vaccination schedule can provide herd immunity and protect the population from an outbreak.


Herd immunity in theory and practice

The idea of ​​herd immunity is not an immunological concept, but rather a speculative epidemiological concept that theoretically predicts successful disease control or virus eradication, provided that a certain, pre-calculated percentage of the population acquires immunity. The scientific article states:

“Along with the growing interest in herd immunity, there are growing doubts about how to understand this term, and even whether it even exists at all. Several authors have written about measles statistics that “question” herd immunity, others cite widely varying (70 to 95%) estimates of herd immunity thresholds needed to eradicate measles1.


Long-standing research by Dr. E. Hedrick is considered key to the theory of herd immunity being easily achieved. He analyzed measles outbreaks in Baltimore, Maryland, which occurred there every 2-3 years between 1900 and 1931. Hedrick found that before each major outbreak, the proportion of children under 15 years of age susceptible to the disease was in the order of 45-50%. By the end of each outbreak, the number of still susceptible children never fell below 32%2 . However, 95–97% of children had measles before age 153 . For this reason, adults were immune to measles.

The discovery that a large number of susceptible children systematically avoid measles in every single outbreak has given the US Health Service optimism that herd immunity works well below 100% threshold. An official prediction was made that by 1967 measles would be rapidly eradicated in the United States by reaching and maintaining thresholds for mass vaccinations.4 , which began in 1963. This prognosis did not materialize, and measles epidemics did not end in 1967. The notion that herd immunity based on mass vaccination is easily achievable has turned out to be wrong.

Further, the concept of herd immunity evolved towards the idea of ​​vaccinating children against mild childhood diseases, not for the sake of the children themselves, but for the sake of protecting the segment of society vulnerable to the disease, consisting of those who cannot be vaccinated. For example, rubella is not dangerous for children, but it is dangerous for pregnant women who did not acquire immunity to it before pregnancy, threatening the development of fetal abnormalities in the first trimester (congenital rubella).

Probably with good intentions to immediately end the danger of congenital rubella, in 1970 in Casper, Wyoming, a mass rubella vaccination was carried out in an elementary school in Casper, Wyoming. As if in derision, nine months after this vaccination campaign, there was an outbreak of rubella in Casper. Herd immunity did not work, and over 1000 people fell ill with rubella, including several pregnant women, but recently vaccinated children did not get rubella. In the wake of this incident, the study’s authors wrote in confusion:

“This epidemic has shown that the idea of ​​preventing the spread of rubella among the rest of the community by a highly immune group of children is not always correct.5».


Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination

Despite these realities of disease control and eradication, unfounded beliefs in herd immunity continue to affect vaccination laws in many states in the United States and other countries. The idea of ​​herd immunity is used as a bargaining chip to justify any measure that is often contrary to the principle of free choice, and is intended to increase the percentage of vaccinated. The implication is that liberal vaccination policies, with their vaccine diversions, may somehow harm the “precious” herd immunity that health care providers are trying to achieve and maintain through mass vaccination.

While the existence of vaccine-based herd immunity has yet to be proven, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In only one article by Poland and Jacobson (1994)6 reported 18 different outbreaks of measles in North America in schools with a high percentage of vaccinated children (71 to 99.8%). During these outbreaks, 30 to 100% of affected children were vaccinated against measles. Epidemiology articles describe many other similar outbreaks of the disease since 1994.


Whose fault?

The medical establishment immediately blamed Mother Nature for frequent outbreaks of measles in groups and communities with high vaccine coverage. It has been observed that if vaccinated too early, babies may not respond to measles vaccine due to the inhibitory (and at the same time protective) effect of maternal antibodies transmitted through the placenta. Until the 1990s, measles was given one shot in North America. To compensate for possible “interference” with maternal immunity passed on to a child in the first vaccine, a new dual MMR (measles-rubella-mumps) vaccine strategy was introduced in the United States and Canada in the early 1990s.


Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination

Thereafter, endemic measles disappeared from North America, but in 2011 Quebec experienced an outbreak of imported measles – the largest since the new schedule – despite 95–97% of the population being vaccinated against it during the dual measles era. If double vaccination is not enough to overcome early childhood vaccine failures and guarantee elusive herd immunity, should we wait for a policy of three (or maybe four) MMR shots to see if it helps herd immunity? Or should we instead rethink the very concept of herd immunity?


False assumption

Herd immunity theory is based on the incorrect assertion that vaccination induces in an individual a condition equivalent to bona fide immunity, that is, lifelong resistance to viral infection. As in any other theory, built on the principle of “garbage in – garbage out” (a principle in computer science, which means that incorrect input will result in incorrect results, even if the algorithm itself is correct. – Approx. Transl.) , herd immunity expectations do not justify themselves in reality.

Some important information about antiviral immunity can be obtained from experiments on laboratory animals. Oxenbein et al. (2000)7 conducted experiments on mice, comparing the effect of the introduction of two drugs of the vesicular stomatitis virus. They immunized the mice with either an unmodified (live) virus or a UV-inactivated virus, which made the virus unable to replicate itself (killed virus). Then, the blood serum of the immunized animals from these two groups was examined for the potential for neutralizing the stomatitis virus (for the ability of the virus to infect living cells) within 300 days after immunization.


Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination

Injection of a live virus preparation made the serum capable of neutralizing the virus for a long period of time, and this ability was maintained throughout the study without a noticeable decrease. In contrast, injection of the killed virus resulted in a much lower titer of antibodies to neutralize the virus. Titers peaked in serum 20 days after vaccination and then quickly disappeared, going below the sensitivity limits of the neutralization test by the end of the study.

The conclusion from this experiment was that when animals are immunized, a procedure that attenuates or inactivates the virus also reduces the ability to elicit long-term neutralizing antibody titers.

It should be noted that vaccines against viral childhood diseases are prepared in a similar way: first, a “wild” virus obtained from a sick person is isolated, then a vaccine strain is obtained from it by weakening or inactivation. Attenuation or inactivation of the “wild” virus in a vaccine strain is done to reduce the risk of developing viral disease symptoms, although this sometimes happens anyway. The attenuation process that makes the virus of the vaccine strain safer than the “wild”, original virus in terms of the symptoms of the viral disease caused by both of them, also affects the reliability of protection due to vaccinations.

The protective threshold for measles virus-neutralizing serum antibody titers can be estimated from the measles study conducted at Boston University by Chen et al.8 Subsequent research by Le Baron et al.9 also estimates the time required for antibody titers to fall below the protective threshold after re-vaccination against measles. Consider these two studies.


Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination

Boston University study of measles outbreak

In 1990, about a month before the campus faced a measles outbreak, Boston University held a Donor Day for students. Thanks to this lucky coincidence, the researchers were able to gain access to blood tests for many sick and non-sick students. The titers of serum neutralizing antibodies to measles were thus obtained one month before and two months after exposure to measles. Antibody titers (available due to vaccination of students in childhood) could be correlated with the degree of current protection against measles in three groups: (1) the disease is not detected, (2) serologically confirmed measles infection with an altered course, or (3) full-fledged clinical measles. Incidentally, 7 out of 8 students with full-fledged clinical measles were vaccinated against it in childhood, some twice.


The findings from the Boston University study of the measles outbreak were as follows:

  • All previously vaccinated students who underwent full-fledged measles had neutralizing titers of antibodies to measles below 120 before exposure to the virus.
  • 70% of students whose pre-exposure titers were between 120 and 1052 had a serologically confirmed measles infection, but because their altered symptoms did not fit the definition of a clinical measles case, they were not included in the outbreak during the outbreak.
  • Students who had titers above 1052 prior to exposure to the virus were largely protected from both typical clinical illness and infection with the virus.

The findings from the Boston University study of the measles outbreak were as follows:


Further observations

Another study by Le Baron et al. (2007) aimed to determine the duration of measles virus-neutralizing titers after a second MMR booster. The study involved several hundred healthy, measles-free, measles-free American children from rural areas over the course of the study period.

The study found that about a quarter of children in this group developed relatively high serum titers in response to MMR vaccination. The rest responded moderately to the revaccination, while some barely responded. Although this particular study was unable to compare neutralizing antibody titers to measles among vaccinated and naturally immunized, a study by Ito et al. (2002) previously showed that neutralizing antibody titers to measles obtained from vaccination were about 9 times lower than caused by natural infection10 . Thus, even those who have responded relatively well to the measles vaccine still fall short of the level of neutralizing antibodies acquired after natural infection.

Serum titers in all vaccinated children, regardless of their level – high, medium or low – reached their peak one month after revaccination, then dropped over the next 6 months to the level before revaccination and then continued to gradually decrease over the next 5-10 years of observation. Only in a quarter of children (those with maximum titers) 10 years after revaccination at the age of 5 years, the level of antibodies was higher than 1000 units. This group is likely to be protected from measles infection by adolescence.

In the group of children with the least effective response to revaccination (bottom 5%), the titer level 5–10 years after MMR revaccination was below 120 units. In this group, upon contact with the disease, the development of full-fledged, clinically distinguishable measles can be expected. For this reason, vaccinated, and even double-vaccinated, people get measles in the same or even more numbers than unvaccinated people in communities with a high percentage of vaccine coverage (above 95%).

Herd immunity: can it be achieved through mass vaccination


The rapid loss of vaccine protection among those who do not produce large amounts of antibodies is the cause of the paradox that a “vaccine preventable” disease becomes a disease of the vaccinated. They get sick not because maternal antibodies interfere with the vaccination at an early age, but because it is an expected failure due to the disappearance of vaccine protection.

In most children who receive the MMR vaccine, measles antibody titers drop to between 120 and 1000 units by adolescence. These children become sick when exposed to the measles virus and become potentially infectious during an outbreak, although they can carry modified measles without being diagnosed and reported. In fact, during the measles outbreak at Boston University, many students with titers between 120 and 1052, not officially recognized as ill, had some symptoms of viral infection (runny nose, cough, photophobia, headache, fever, diarrhea). After an outbreak of measles, these “non-sick” patients were found to have high titers of antibodies to measles, exactly the same as in those who had recovered from typical clinical measles. This indicates the multiplication of the virus and, therefore, the transmission of infection.


High vaccination coverage does not provide herd immunity

Imports of measles by emigrants to North America following the eradication of the endemic virus have generally resulted in small or unconfirmed outbreaks, in part due to the vigilance of public health authorities regarding quarantine. However, in 2011, an outbreak of imported measles in Quebec, Canada was characterized by de Serres et al.11 as alarmingly different. Strict quarantine measures were not applied, probably due to the conviction that the region is under the reliable protection of herd immunity, since the “coverage” of vaccinations was exceptionally high (95–97%). The implications of the belief in non-existent herd immunity versus the earlier quarantine to limit the outbreak of an imported disease were very telling.

Measles was introduced by a schoolteacher who had returned from a short trip abroad in the spring (he himself was vaccinated against measles as a child), and the disease spread quickly, affecting over 600 people, including 21 babies. The outbreak lasted six months. Almost half of the cases were vaccinated twice. The impressive proportion of doubly vaccinated cases among cases was established only thanks to an active search conducted by de Serre et al. On the other hand, passive observation led to a significant underestimation of the number of cases of doubly vaccinated patients, which distorted official statistics.


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The gradual extinction of the protective effect of vaccination is also indicated by the fact that as the twice-vaccinated children grow up, the incidence among them increases. Twice vaccinated and sick with measles in the age group from 5 to 9 years old make up only 4.1%, while in the group from 10 to 14 years old there are already 18%, and in the group from 15 to 19 years old – 22%. This study did not assess how many previously vaccinated people ended up with measles with a modified clinical course, and therefore they were not included in the incidence statistics, although they spread the virus.


Can a vaccinated person be contagious

The medical establishment believes that vaccinated children, if they become infected with the virus and even have full-fledged measles, cannot infect others. A paper published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association in 1973 is cited as evidence. Indeed, the title of the article read: “Vaccinated children do not transmit measles.”12 . However, close examination of the study design reveals that it does not adequately answer the question it had to answer: whether or not vaccinated children, who undoubtedly got sick during the outbreak, passed the virus on to others who were still vulnerable to the virus.

The results of this study demonstrated that during the 1970s outbreak of measles in Iowa, which affected both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, unvaccinated children probably did not infect their younger preschool siblings with measles, many of whom could have been recently vaccinated and therefore have not been susceptible to measles in any way during the outbreak in question. Whether younger siblings were vaccinated was not determined (or reported) in the study. Interestingly, the data from this study show that unhealthy, unvaccinated children also did not infect their younger preschool siblings with an unspecified vaccination status with measles. Hence, it is clear that vaccination status is not a predictor of viral transmission.


A recent study following a 2011 New York measles outbreak made clear that double-vaccinated adults can be infectious to those around them.13.

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Simple math

Let us now recall that the promoted goal of achieving herd immunity through maximum vaccination of the population is to quickly suppress any outbreaks of harmless childhood infectious diseases so that vulnerable but unvaccinated members of society (infants or people on immunosuppressants) can be protected from the disease. dangerous only at their age or with their immune problems. According to very rough theoretical calculations, to prevent an outbreak of the disease, it is necessary that 70–95% of the population have real immunity to the disease, that is, it must be resistant to viral infection, and not just protected from the development of symptoms that correspond to the generally accepted clinical description of the disease. Nevertheless, even one hundred percent vaccination of the population, at best, provides a quarter of the population with this immunity for a period of more than ten years. Hence, it is obvious that strong herd immunity cannot be achieved in the long term through childhood vaccination, regardless of the coverage of the population with vaccinations.



Is booster vaccination the solution to the vanishing vaccine immunity to measles?

Typical variations in the gene pool (i.e., personal immunogenetic profile) affect how efficiently vaccines are processed and presented to the immune system to produce antibodies. This may be one of the reasons why only a part of healthy children respond well to the vaccine (that is, they begin to produce and maintain a relatively high level of neutralizing antibodies to measles for many years), while other healthy children respond poorly to vaccination. Will revaccination of carriers of immunogenetic profiles that do not actively produce antibodies in response to measles vaccine be effective in correcting their hereditarily weak response to vaccination? Research that suggests the futility of such a strategy is based on observations summarized by Dr. Gregory Poland:

“Studies on measles have shown that the ‘weakly positive’ series of antibodies to measles following immunization did not protect against clinical measles when people were exposed to the ‘wild’ virus, while high antibody titers did. Moreover, those who did not respond to the first measles vaccine and showed an increase in titers only after the second, were still 6 times more likely to contract measles when exposed to the “wild” virus than those who responded well to the first vaccine. We analyzed the data of people with a weak reaction to the vaccine, vaccinated repeatedly and acquired low titers, but then lost them and became infected with measles upon contact with the virus within 2 to 5 years after revaccination “14.

The answer is obvious: those who are poorly responsive to the measles vaccine also respond poorly to revaccination and cannot save herd immunity. Why does the medical establishment, with this evidence, insist that herd immunity is possible if vaccinations are given more severely and more frequently? Why, for an unattainable idea, are our traditional pediatricians and health officials persecuting families who choose to protect their children from the potential harm of vaccines or to improve their health through non-vaccine naturopathic methods?


A doomed healthcare adventure

The biomedical belief that vaccinated children pose a threat to society by not participating in herd immunity is absurd, because even vaccinating every single child on the required immunization schedule cannot provide the coveted herd immunity. The time has come to free ourselves from intolerance towards those who are making a waiver for their children. Instead, focus should be on the outcome of mass vaccination campaigns.


Mass vaccination of children in an attempt to eradicate the virus initially yields quick results in reducing the incidence of disease only because it “leaves” for most adults who acquired immunity in the pre-vaccine era naturally. The problem, however, is that the proportion of vaccinated but non-immune young people is constantly increasing, while the proportion of the older immune generation is decreasing due to age. Thus, over time, mass vaccination will lead to the loss of cumulative immunity in adults. The fight against imported outbreaks is now becoming an unequal battle regardless of vaccine coverage, and the Quebec epidemic in 2011 can be considered a harbinger of future even less controlled outbreaks.

Mass vaccination stops outbreaks of endemic disease by removing the virus circulating in the population, instead of creating permanent immunity in the vaccinated. Nevertheless, viral diseases, although they have become less common in many countries, have not been eradicated all over the world. Eliminating exposure to the virus in a given region – while the virus is present in other regions – is hardly good news. The increase in the number of vaccinations for children is a measure of control over the disease, leading over time to the fact that our entire adult population (and even more importantly, babies) becomes more and more defenseless in the face of an incompletely eradicated virus that can be easily imported.


Why are health authorities so eagerly clinging to the doomed gamble of non-simultaneous virus eradication?

Although belatedly, the theoretical recognition of the epidemiological catastrophe towards which we are moving comes:


“For infectious diseases for which vaccination can offer lifelong protection, a whole set of simple models can be applied to explain the benefits of vaccination as a control method. But immunity to many diseases disappears over time … Below we demonstrate how vaccination can bring with it a whole range of unexpected consequences. We predict that after a long period of time free from disease, the emergence of infection will lead to significantly larger epidemics than predicted by standard models. These results have clear implications for the long-term success of any vaccination campaign and highlight the need for a clear understanding of the immunological mechanisms of immunity and vaccination. “15.

The medical establishment understood the opposite. In fact, it is not children with vaccine withdrawal who endanger the health of all of us, but the consequences of prolonged mass vaccination. When will the medical establishment (and the media) begin to pay attention to the long-term consequences of mass vaccinations, instead of hastily and unfairly blaming the unvaccinated for every outbreak?


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