"As for your response to the protection afforded to the people who are not immunized by those who are I am interested in hearing more. Do you believe that if everyone stopped vaccinating we would still be free from serious illnesses prevented by vaccination or is your feeling that these illnesses are not dangerous enough to warrant vaccination? How is this reconciled with the rampant disease and death in third world countries where vaccination is not readily available? This is an argument I haven't heard while researching but would love to hear more about. I am always looking to learn and adjust my thinking where needed."
This is a bit separate from the discussion above so I divided it. :)
The original term "herd immunity" applied to naturally-contracted disease in livestock. The herd contracted the disease, the weak and the old died and then the herd was protected. I find it offensively ironic that it was lately applied to vaccination. :(
The premise of vaccines is rather extended. It's based on several assumptions. The assumptions generall go: if everyone was fully vaccinated and the vaccines worked at least 85-99% in preventing disease AND disease transmission, and IF the diseases were directly tied to human transmission cycles and not their own cycles, then the disease incidence would be lowered and thus the complications that come in cases of disease would be lowered, and thus people would be saved from the complications of the diseases that they might contract naturally.
And for that numerically to work, you also have to assume that vaccines are NOT inherently harmful and only harm a very tiny segment of the population, and the number harmed must be smaller than the number harmed from complications of the diseases themselves.
It really isn't that convincing b/c science tells us a different story:
1) Not everyone is vaccinated. And this isn't about those who consciously reject them. Vaccine coverage has been difficult to maintain for a variety of reasons. The CDC's goal for future vaccination is 75% of the population...much MUCH lower than what is theoretically required for any herd immunity. Some vaccines have only existed in the last decade, so only those particular children born recently were vaccinated. The CDC says only 2% of adults are fully vaccinated and/or up to date on their vaccines. So where is the rampant disease and death?
2) Vaccines are not highly efficacious in preventing disease OR disease transmission. Some vaccines, such as the DTaP, do not even function to prevent transmission. Rather, the P portion makes Pertussis subclinical/atypical. Those who are vaccinated might not cough, but they can still spread it to others. So claiming that vaccinating against Pertussis will protect those who can't be vaccinated is false. In fact, it's arguable that asymptomatic cases are more dangerous to the immunocompromised. IF you don't know you are sick, you can't avoid your chronically ill friend.
3) The concept that rates are directly tied to human transmission is not accurate either. The general idea of herd immunity is that if everyone gets vaccinated and stops circulating the disease, it will just "disappear" or be "eradicated." But disease cycles appear to be based on their own factors and can reappear in highly vaccinated areas periodically.
4) For herd immunity to be a worthwhile attempt, we have to believe that vaccines are not inherently harmful. That is not true. Whether we think they are ultimately worth it or not, vaccines cause their own form of injury in every case. Every vaccine on the market contains something harmful to the body, whether that is aluminum, ethyl mercury, formaldehyde, foreign unregulated DNA particles, etc. The process of vaccination is thus not an ounce of prevention but rather faith in a trade off that the harm of the vaccine is less than the harm of the risk of potentially experiencing a complication from a vaccine related illness. This particular point is quite lengthy and can go on forever. We could post statistics forever and ever on how many people experience complications, why, how many are permanent or fatal etc. (For vaccines and illness).
You ask about developing countries...I'd like to point you to research in nutrient deficiencies. Treating a nutrient deficiency is often done concurrently with vaccines, but our media only mentions vaccines as the reason for improved health or reduced mortality.
For example, under the WHO's guidelines many countries have begun giving citizens Vitamin A shots along with the measles vaccine:
Vaccines may or may not be widely available in some parts of the world, but in developed countries with a voluntary schedule containing fewer vaccines than ours, they are almost across the board improved over us in several areas. Of course, vaccinations are but one factor in the equation of reduced mortality and morbidity. There are many other issues at hand here.
For example, Japan banned the MMR in the 1990s and hasn't looked back. They are one of the countries with the lowest number of childhood vaccines, IIRC less than half what we do, and they start much later as well. Japan has such a low SIDS rate that they don't have a word for it. They have a very low infant mortality rate, whereas we are 2nd worst on the list. And they are not dealing with rampant disease and people dying and becoming sterile left and right.
Anyways, just thoughts to dig through.