Since the debut of vaccines, global health has improved as diseases become less common and, in some cases, eradicated. “Herd immunity,” the overall immunity established when a significant proportion of a community is immune to a disease, can be reached through widespread vaccination. The result of herd immunity is an extreme reduction of disease prevalence (Fine, Eames, & Heymann, 2011). Current herd immunity saves forty-two thousand lives and fourteen billion dollars in the United States each year in direct medical costs alone (Buttenheim, Jones, & Baras, 2012).
Reaching the threshold number of individuals needed in order to achieve herd immunity has generally been a nonissue for countries. However, smaller scale communities sometimes struggle to reach thresholds due to larger magnitudes of unvaccinated individuals. Individuals may not be vaccinated because of age, medical issues, or personal objections. Such objections can have many roots, including philosophical, moral, personal, and religious reluctance. Imdad et al. (2013) indicated that throughout the United States, that while regulations for vaccination exemptions are determined on state-by-state basis, the overall rate of exemptions for mandatory vaccinations granted on religious grounds has risen in recent years, when previously the rate of such exemptions remained constant.
Individuals with religious exemptions for vaccinations not only are at a greater risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, but also elevate the risk for others. Individuals who cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions or age are at greater risk because of the religiously exempt, who can become infected and transmit disease them. Even vaccinated individuals are at greater risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases (Imdad et al., 2013). Vaccinations cannot provide 100-percent immunity against diseases, leaving a possibility for infection even among the vaccinated (Buttenheim, Jones, & Baras, 2012).
As people with similar beliefs tend to group together, clusters of unvaccinated individuals form (Buttenheim, Jones, & Baras, 2012). Ruijs et al. (2011) remark that, especially in rural areas, social norms can greatly affect personal decisions for or against vaccination. In Holland, Ruijs et al. (2011) determined that Orthodox Protestants influence surrounding community members to reject vaccinations, even in cases when the individuals are not Orthodox Protestants themselves. Parents who feel that vaccines are unacceptable are likely to live together and their children to attend the same schools, such that the exemption rate for the region would be higher than average (Buttenheim, Jones, & Baras, 2012). The higher the exemption rate, the more threatened a community’s herd immunity is. Imdad et al. (2013) and Buttenheim, Jones, and Baras (2012) demonstrate domestically, and Grabenstein (2013) and Ruijs et al. (2011) demonstrate internationally, that the higher the rates of...