women milking cows

Those in farming circles know more about the value of vaccines than almost every human population demographic. That's because we know vaccines thwart a wide variety of diseases by developing and invoking an immune response against viruses.

While the developed nations of the world have led the battle to eradicate smallpox, polio, measles and many other deadly diseases, that is no longer the case. Let's dig a little deeper into that issue.

Time for a quick history lesson: Who is Edward Jenner?

Edward Jenner was the scientist who astutely realized that milkmaids didn't contract smallpox. Jenner wanted to know why.

In 1796, women often carried out hand milking of cows. Due to their exposure to cowpox, via contact with cows twice a day, these milkmaids didn't contract smallpox, a close biological cousin to cowpox.

It was Jenner's discovery that changed the course of human history as the science centered on vaccines took root. Smallpox, polio, measles, and other deadly viruses all could be combated by an immune response. For people of the day, it was an answer to many a prayer.

These days, people are less exposed to the trauma of losing a loved one to contagious diseases, and think they know better than science and doctors. That wasn't the case for our great-grandparents. In other situations, people in cash-strapped nations don't have access to vaccines.

It takes vaccination rates of 95 percent or higher to create herd immunity. Of course, on farms, we strive for 100 percent vaccination rates. That is the best-case scenario but seldom achieved in human populations.

Due to substandard vaccination rates, nations in North America, Europe, and Oceania are seeing outbreaks of measles. While some are religious objectors, others fear an autism-vaccination link (proven to be unfounded) or are concerned the vaccination schedules are too aggressive for children. The Economist magazine reports that a quarter of parents fall into this group in its March 26 article "A jab in time."

What are some leaders doing to curb the growing anti-vaccination crowd?

Making life harder for parents who do not vaccinate their children.

This is what The Economist found:
  • California requires a full vaccination record as a condition to enter state schools. (A dozen states are considering similar bills.)
  • In Germany, parents must discuss their decision to not vaccinate a child with a doctor before entering daycare. Government paperwork tracks this engagement.
  • Australia simply withholds any government benefits from parents who do not vaccinate, unless a sound medical reason can be substantiated.

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    (c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2016
    April 18, 2016
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