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Last week I stumbled upon an article which stated that vaccination from polio is totally unnecessary for infants in first world countries. The article cited a bunch of questionable sources like mercola.com, but also had some references to information provided by WHO.

I decided to check what WHO says about it. WHO page about polio has a link to Data and statistics, which states, that in past couple of years there have been very few cases of polio (100-200 cases a year - all of them in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan).

So I wonder: are claims, that vaccination from polio is not necessary, reasonable? It looks like they are fighting a disease that's almost non existent (as opposed to influenza for example, of which there are 3 to 5 million cases of serious illness each year).

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    this claim no doubt falls into the same category as claims that vaccination causes autism. – jwenting Apr 10 '13 at 5:59
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    The REASON it's not common, IS because of the vaccination. I read an article about it somewhere, I can maybe dig it up. But it said that in the US lots of anti-science religious people are against vaccinations, and that in some communities they have huge outbreaks of polio then, and a bunch of kids dies. As long as the numbers stay low of non-vaccinated, they are protected by the others vaccinations, because majority of community is immune, and thus no one gets it. If too many stay unvaccinated, the community is vulnerable, and then there can be a big outbreak. – Wertilq Apr 10 '13 at 7:07
  • I knew a kid only a year younger than me who contracted Polio in early 1990's. I was born in 1987. We live in the USA. He had bone pain and couldn't stand for extended periods because of the illness; he was permanently crippled by it. I am skeptical of vaccines in general, but polio is one that I think is worth the risks. If we go 20 years or so without a single case anywhere, like small pox, then I would say it is time to retire the vaccine as the disease had been defeated. – fredsbend Apr 10 '13 at 17:11
  • There's a big difference between infants and at all. Which one are you asking about? – Rex Kerr Apr 10 '13 at 19:34
  • @RexKerr good point. I think I'm more interested about vaccination from polio in general, not specific to infants. – valentinas Apr 10 '13 at 21:25
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Yes due to community immunity.

Unimmunized persons are protected—indirectly—against some infectious diseases by being surrounded by immunized persons. This is known as community (or “herd”) immunity.1

There is a 'community immunity' where the more people have the vaccine, the harder it is for the disease to spread. Conversely, vaccines have a rate of effectiveness - they don't work perfectly 100% of the time; between that and people with compromised immune systems, even if most people get the vaccine, there is always a small segment of the community that is vulnerable. So, people who choose not to get the vaccine put themselves and the whole community at risk.

Reason why it's important with community immunity, is that no vaccine is 100% working, so on top of the vaccine preventing the disease, the community need to be as clean as possible from it.

Reaching the thresholds for these diseases is important for the public health because no vaccine is 100% effective. 1

One small note though, as far as I know the 'anti-vax' movement is not particularly a religious thing, although they are clearly unscientific. They are also not limited to the US (there are similar groups in the UK, for example).

There are also, separately, religious groups (i.e. Christian Scientists) who object to most/all medicine on religious grounds, without denying any of the science involved.

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    the anti-vaccination crowd are mostly religious, though there's a smaller subset who object because it's a government mandate and they either don't trust the government or consider the sanctity of their bodies to be something the government has no authority to determine (usually both, often combined with religious reasons as well). – jwenting Apr 10 '13 at 10:13
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    I wouldn't agree with such a generalization. For example opposing swine flu vaccines has quite firm scientific grounds, in 1976, swine flu killed 1 person, while the vaccine killed 25. – vartec Apr 10 '13 at 10:30
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    @jwenting I'd argue against the point of the anti-vaccination crowd being mostly religious as well. That's not to say that there aren't some who object to vaccinations on religious grounds but most of the movement that has been in the recent news has been objection on "scientific" grounds in the belief that vaccinations lead to autism. – rjzii Apr 10 '13 at 11:48
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    @RobZ: exactly, there been some "vaccines contain mercury which causes autism" conspiracy theory. IIRC it has been addressed in a question here. – vartec Apr 10 '13 at 12:00
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    @jwenting Your evidence for the anti-vax movement being religious? – DJClayworth Apr 10 '13 at 13:01

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