Vaccines prevent disease outbreaks Vaccines prevent disease outbreaks – SOMETHING ABOUT SCIENCE

Vaccines prevent disease outbreaks

Photo credit: Amanda Mills/CDC

Photo credit: Amanda Mills/CDC

Have you had your children vaccinated yet? Vaccination not only protects your family but, through what is know as herd immunity, protects your community from a disease outbreak. When a significant portion of people in the community are immune to the disease, together they form a shield that reduces the chance of infections jumping from person to person and prevents susceptible people from getting sick.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a simulator of how measles would spread in the United States in two scenarios: not enough children are vaccinated vs. majority of children are vaccinated.

Below is an example using Seattle area in Washington State. On the left side is a simulation when only 80% of school-aged children are vaccinated. In this scenario, the whole region is covered in dots, representing infectious (red) and recovered (blue) cases of measles. On the other hand, having 95% coverage, shown on the right, only has sparse cases. It’s very clear that vaccination makes a huge difference in preventing an outbreak of measles. You can try the simulation in other regions or states and see the same result. The simulation is part of an open-source modelling system, FRED (A Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics), ran by the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory of University of Pittsburgh.


Thanks to vaccination efforts by healthcare providers, we rarely see or worry about contracting measles in North America. Or until recently…that is. Measles is an extremely contagious, viral disease that children are especially susceptible to. In 2000, it was declared eliminated from the United States. But last year, an outburst of measles in the United States was reported, and there already have been over 140 cases this year. (See the chart below.) “The majority of the people who got measles were unvaccinated,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For updates on measles outbreaks in the United States, visit their website.

US Measles Cases by Year

What influences an increasing number of parents in recent years to decide not to have their kids vaccinated? Watch the video below by SciShow to learn about the psychology (or cognitive biases) that drives some people to believe, without scientific grounds, vaccines and autism are correlated.

Fewer children in the United States are getting vaccinated. That’s bad news for those kids, and also for public health in general. Often, the response is to argue and debate and get angry at people who are we see as making terrible, irrational decisions. Instead of doing that, let’s use science to understand why this is happening in the first place. (Hank Green on SciShow)

Lynn Kimlicka

I am a scientist-turned writer and editor, who loves to read and write (more than doing experiments). I have a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology, with a specialization in structural biology. My interests range widely, from life sciences to pop culture and arts to music. I am bilingual in English and Japanese.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: