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Herd immunity | How vaccinations protect children and save lives

22 June, 2017
Herd immunity

For the herd

We cover our mouths when we cough, sneeze into tissues (or at least our hands before sneakily wiping them on the sides of our pants or the inside of our pockets) and stay at home when we’re sick. On the surface, it’s a matter of politeness and hygiene – no-one wants to get a face full of someone else’s phlegm. There’s more to it than just the matter of being viewed with disgust or as socially gross; we intrinsically don’t want to make other people sick, and this is to protect ourselves just as much as it is to protect others.

Herd immunity follows a similar kind of reasoning, except in this case, we have far greater control over its success.

What is herd immunity?

Also known as ‘community immunity’, there are a few ways we can look at herd immunity:

  • As the proportion of immune peoples in a population
  • The pattern of immunity among a population that should provide protection against new infection
  • As an ‘indirect protection’, where immune individuals shield the non-immune from infection

This can help stop the spread of disease like mumps, strep and the flu.

How does herd immunity work?

Herd immunity is a buffer between the contagious and the susceptible. Where people don’t have immunities, contagions can spread like this:

No immunisation herd immunity

Here, those susceptible to the infection are more likely to come in to contact with it.

When people are immunised, it’s much harder for the contagion to spread:

Herd immunity with immunisation

Is vaccination a part of herd immunity?

Yes! But first, we have to separate the idea of ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’.


A vaccine, like your yearly flu shot, introduces a weakened or dead virus or small part of bacteria into your body.

Note – you cannot get the disease from the vaccine.

The immune system responds and destroys the virus or bacteria, and ‘learns’ how to deal with it, meaning the next time the same virus or bacteria are present, it can take care of it more quickly. This can prevent symptoms or the worst effects of these diseases appearing.


This means you are ‘immune’ or not prone to an infection or disease. Vaccines can make you immune to infection and diseases by preparing your immune system to deal with them faster and more efficiently.

It’s important to get yourself vaccinated, and especially important to get your kids vaccinated! Check out where you can be vaccinated here.


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies.

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