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Why Healthcare Puts too Much Stock in Herds

There are two individuals I credit for the biggest contributions making up our current baseline thinking of what health looks like. Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur. These were brilliant men who sought to make the world a better place and their efforts are notable. They gave peace of mind to thousands of people who were living in a state of fear during their times. It was not unlike times of today, but without the internet. Their work still exists today and is the premise of our most basic lifestyle routines and healthcare systems. What they created is both a masterpiece and horrific tragedy to human health at the same time.

Louis Pasteur is known as the father of the germ theory. In 1881 his experiments on cows and sheep created the first rabies vaccine. He went on to study germs and created the foundation of what we know as the importance of hand washing and sterilization. These are important contributions to humans that have prevented numerous illnesses, diseases and deaths since his connection of cleanliness. However, in true human nature form, it has gone to the extreme and contributed to new illnesses, diseases and deaths including super-bugs and weakened natural immunity. The existence of germs became the source of all to blame when it came to illnesses. We soon took on the war against germs that did not entirely look at the scope of the germ role in our health.

Edward Jenner is known as the father of immunology. He created vaccinations that at the time were important against smallpox. During this time, people thought of smallpox like the latest Black Plague. Thousands were dying it seemed like an illness that had no end. His contribution of immunization created what is known as herd immunity; the delicate balance of maintaining a certain level of vaccination in animals and people to control spread of illnesses and diseases. Again, his contribution seemed like a logical step in improving health status but has created a host of issues that persist today.

Jenner’s theory of herd immunity using vaccination became the foundational wisdom supporting childhood immunizations requirements. While his work is praised as a victory in disease management among allopathic and pharmaceutical experts and is generally accepted as a result by most of society; it is a devastating negative impact to human rights posing long term risk and consequences to the health of our society. The most recent occurrence related to his historical work is being seen, and felt, globally with the responses and actions taken with COVID-19, including that of governmental and public mandatory vaccinations in many countries.

Children are targeted as the most common channel for herd immunity through school policies that require vaccination for attendance. Jenner himself is known to have used a young boy to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of his smallpox vaccine. Given the precedence of existing vaccination requirements in schools; the same approach may be promoted in school policy for the COVID-19 vaccine. The fear-based response to the virus, and all its variant forms, using mandates and policy is concerning because in the analysis of COVID-19 data to date, there is minimal data and analysis based on children.

Where Jenner, Pasteur and modern day thinking on the validity of vaccinations and germs continues be short sighted is in considering the long-term impacts to childhood development, growth, mental health and later adult health as a result of being used to promote herd immunity. Additionally, this approach fails to account for the continued question of appropriateness for vaccines in child