“Kids that have been vaccinated are not as likely to transmit it through the air,” she said. “So we don’t have to be as worried if we only have one case.”
This touches on the concept of herd immunity, which physicians use to describe the decreased likelihood of a disease spreading in a vaccinated population even if one child doesn’t develop the ideal immune response.
“Not every child that receives a vaccine is 100 percent protected,” Rettie said. “That’s why we try to vaccinate as many kids as we can.”
Herd immunity did not, however, prevent about 25 vaccinated Lincoln County students from contracting whooping cough this winter, Stone said.
She said medical professionals are not entirely sure what caused the outbreak, but agree that the whooping cough outbreak could have been more severe and widespread if the students weren’t immunized.
“All those children had the illness, but none of those children were severely ill or had to be hospitalized,” she said.
Rachael FitzGerald, director of the Center for Rural Health in Danville, said the Lincoln County case may actually show the need to be more vigilant with vaccines.
A second dose of the varicella vaccine protecting against chickenpox is one of the added requirements for children entering kindergarten this year because the first injection has not reduced illness in classrooms as much as desired, Stone said.
FitzGerald said similar measures may someday be taken with the whooping cough vaccine. She acknowledged that all medical practices have risks, and vaccines are not fool-proof, but noted that parents vaccinating their children is a community responsibility.
“In the end, it goes back to the same argument,” she said. “What is the greater good, just looking after your one child or the other 400 children they’re in school with?”
The argument appeals to parents with utilitarian sensibilities, but Rettie explained that some parents find it difficult to see the scientific fact when words like autism, paralysis and seizure get used.
“You can have 10 people to tell you that something’s fine, but all it takes is one person to say, ‘I don’t know,’” he said.
A Danville mom against
Dinah Hopper of Danville is that one person, and she’s confidently saying no.
Her son Hector sat solemnly in an armchair on his 15th birthday Thursday. In the deep pools of his brown eyes, memories surfaced, momentarily shone, then drowned.
“I was the only kid in ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ at West T. Hill,” he said with a weak smile. “I loved being in plays.”
Hector Hopper enjoyed and excelled in many activities after Dinah Hopper adopted him from Guatemala at age 7. The straight-A student at Danville Christian Academy ran cross country, sang in the church choir, took piano lessons and played soccer.
“My favorite position was to be a rover, basically the most busiest kid on the team,” he said.