Following a vaccination, a person can become immune to the specific disease. This immunity gives protection against illness in an individual. The majority of the population must be vaccinated against serious diseases, which can reduce the chance of people coming into contact with specific pathogens, leading to herd immunity.
There are three recognised scenarios in relation to herd immunity:
The majority of the population are not vaccinated against a specific disease, however, a few people are ill and contagious. This can develop easily into a mass infection because the majority of the population are not vaccinated.
Most of the population are not vaccinated against the specific disease but are well, some are vaccinated and healthy, and a few are not vaccinated, but ill and contagious. Mass infection can result again, but a small number of vaccinated individuals remain healthy and some that are not vaccinated will also be healthy.
The majority of the population are vaccinated and healthy against a specific disease, a few are not vaccinated but well. A few are not vaccinated against the disease, and they are ill and contagious. The result is that the majority are protected due to the high level of vaccination. A few individuals will still become ill, but the large number of vaccinated individuals gives protection.
If the number of people vaccinated against a specific disease drops in a population, it leaves the rest of the population at risk of mass infection, as they are more likely to come across people who are infected and contagious. This increases the number of infections, as well as the number of people who could die from a specific infectious disease.