I've read on Wikipedia that only people who work with Y. pestis and people in 3rd world countries get vaccinated against it:

Since human plague is rare in most parts of the world, routine vaccination is not needed other than for those at particularly high risk of exposure

But I know that it is easy for plague to conquer Europe. All your need is just some fleas and half of the continent dies, as proved in history.

So why does no one in Europe get vaccinated against plague?

  • $\begingroup$ Because it is not necessary. Living conditions have dramatically improved since the last time the black death got over Europe. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Oct 20 '17 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris but why did improving living conditions affecting plague and not other diseases agains which we are getting vaccinated. My friend is an anti-vaxxer and I have to convince him, yet I am not a specialist. $\endgroup$
    – user46147
    Oct 20 '17 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Also, it's arguable that the people who survived the Black Death and other plague outbreaks had a degree of natural resistance, which they passed on to their descendants. Consider how measles &c were able to kill off a large fraction of the population of the Americas after European contact. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 21 '17 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is of low quality. "All you need is some fleas" indeed. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Mar 9 '18 at 19:37

Ask yourself when was the last time that you went to a friend's home and had to worry about getting flea bites? Modern cities still have lots of rats, but modern construction, pesticides, and hygiene have greatly reduced the number of encounters between fleas and people. Contrast that with the early 18th century. When the young George Washington wrote an essay on civil behavior, he felt it worth while to include this item:

13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.

Plague is almost exclusively transmitted to humans by fleas (the pneumonic form of the disease can be transmitted by aerosols but is rare). Few encounters with fleas, few cases of the Plague.

Mumps and measles (for example) are transmitted by human to human contact. No fleas needed. Modern life may have done away with flea bites, but it has only increased the number of persons we come in contact with each day. If you think about it, all the diseases we commonly get vaccinations for are ones spread by direct human to human contact: smallpox, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, measles, flu. Tetanus vaccines are an exception, but that's a bacteria that is ubiquitous in the environment, and causes a very nasty disease.


Because antibiotics are relatively cheap and effective against Y. pestis. Also our easy access to high quality healthcare ensure that diseased individuals are rapidly isolated and threated. Therefore the benefits of the vaccine does not outweigh the riscs associated with it.

You can then argue from now till the end of time of whether other vaccines are worth using. Personally I trust doctors and other scientists to analyse the available data and make the best choice in each case.

  • $\begingroup$ my great gran said she didnt trust doctors and she lived till 99 and 10 months. never saw one! a bit of cynicism goes a long way. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 '17 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, but unless you have spent 5 years of your life studying medicine, life sciences, biology or chemistry, you have no basis on which to base your decision. Therefore you will be prone to make false assumptions based on wrong, partial or non-existent knowledge. $\endgroup$ Oct 22 '17 at 14:12

Plague infections are extremely rare outside of the third world. For the rare occasion that isolated cases of plague make their way into the developed world, plague bacteria overall haven't had much contact with antibiotics (few opportunities to develop resistance) and therefore are generally vulnerable to a standard antibiotic course.

Modern sanitation also helps a lot.


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