I have been a family doctor in central Maine for 40 years. During that time I have seen the clear benefits of vaccines. In the 1980s and 90s every time I had to examine a young child with a high fever the biggest concern was bacterial meningitis. This led to painful and scary lumbar punctures to look for bacteria in the spinal fluid. If treatment with IV antibiotics was started early, we could prevent brain damage or death.

Then the meningitis vaccines were introduced. We never saw another case of this disease in our health center. As the years passed, more benefits were seen. The number of bacteria ear infections in children went down. And then there were fewer serious bacteria pneumonia infections in the elderly. It turns out that these bacteria were causing a lot of serious disease. By reducing the spread of these bacteria many different people were helped.

This is what herd immunity is all about. If at least 95% of people are vaccinated against a disease we prevent epidemics of this disease. Other vaccines, like tetanus (this bacteria lives in the soil and is always around) work for the individual. The only case of tetanus in the U.S. last year was in a young unvaccinated child who had to spend three weeks on a respirator for treatment and was lucky enough to survive.

Being vaccinated is good for each of us. It is also good for society. Please vote no on Question 1 on the statewide March 3 ballot.

Roy Miller, M.D.


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