What is herd immunity?

When you get vaccinated, you’re making a smart decision to protect yourself from serious disease and illness, and you’re helping keep those around you safe. The concept of herd immunity centers around the idea that the more people who are vaccinated, or protected by natural immunity, the better. 

Herd immunity is a term used to describe the concept — and benefit — of having a large number of people in a community protected against a certain disease to prevent the spread of that disease. It is especially important for the most vulnerable. Germs can travel quickly within a community, leading to an outbreak if enough people get sick. But when a lot of people are vaccinated against a particular disease — or exposed and gain immunity to it — the disease does not spread widely. As a result, everyone in the community is less likely to catch the disease.

Herd immunity even helps protect people who cannot be vaccinated — like very young babies, those with serious allergies, or people with weakened immune systems. If the people around vulnerable individuals are vaccinated, germs can’t easily spread through the community. 

Herd immunity acts as a powerful community protection — for you and the people around you. That’s why if you’re able to get vaccinated, you should — to protect yourself and others from serious disease. And, as always, if you have any questions about vaccinations or herd immunity, you should speak with your healthcare provider. 

Learn more about vaccines

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Flu shot: Your best bet for avoiding influenza.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, September 19 2017. Retrieved December 15 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/in-depth/flu-shots/art-20048000.
  • “Vaccines protect your community.” vaccines.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December 2017. Retrieved December 15 2017. https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection/index.html.
  • “Vaccine Safety: The Facts.” healthy children.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, October 10 2018. Retrieved March 18 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Safety-The-Facts.aspx.

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