neighborhoodWe often hear the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child," but it also takes a herd. When a high percentage of people in a community get recommended vaccines (percent varies depending upon how contagious the disease is), that community benefits from what is called “herd immunity.” This means that we’re all well protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, and that protection includes our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members—those who can’t be vaccinated because they’re too young, are pregnant, or have compromised immune systems or complex health issues. So when you are vaccinated your newborn niece is well protected, and so is your neighbor who’s going through chemotherapy for their cancer treatment.

Herd immunity also prevents outbreaks of infectious diseases such as measles, a growing problem in the United States this year, where we now stand at over 1,000 individual cases in 28 states. Some of these cases have occurred in areas of the country with pockets of people who were not vaccinated against measles. When a highly contagious disease like measles enters a community with good herd immunity, an outbreak is much less likely to happen because the majority of the community is vaccinated to prevent it. Those who could not be vaccinated are much less likely to contract the disease because their friends, neighbors, and family members won’t be coming down with it.

In the face of this recent outbreak of measles and beyond, it’s crucial to maintain herd immunity in our community. When those who can be vaccinated protect themselves, they protect us all.

To look up vaccine records, go to or contact your healthcare provider.

For more on who we can immunize, for free, go to

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.