As I understand it, lack of heritable immunity caused smallpox to wipe out certain communities of native Americans. If vaccination conveys heritable immunity to a population, shouldn’t this make vaccines unnecessary after the first generation?

  • $\begingroup$ Genocide is not a verb. Nor does the death of a large number of people in a plague constitute genocide, whether it was the introduction of European diseases to the Americas, or the introduction of Asian or African diseases to Europe, e.g. the Black Death, the Plague of Justinian, &c. You might also note that smallpox was endemic or epidemic in Europe and the Near East for centuries prior to the development of vaccination, regularly killing significant numbers of people. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 29 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ Yersinia pestis was not a new European disease in 1300... $\endgroup$ – user52352 Jun 29 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ I have edited your question for logic (inserted “lack of”) and to make it conform to scientific and non-confrontational site style. As a new user to this list I would encourage you to take the Tour and read about asking good questions. $\endgroup$ – David Jun 29 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Guys, you are discussing with an anti-vaccine troll, as the original not edited question clearly shows. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jun 29 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris I am not discussing with him, although jasmesqf is. I edited his question so that we can post a clear answer clarifying the confusion in the use of the term immunity and making the point that the immune response invoked by vaccines is not heritable. It is important, however, not to get side-tracked into answering questions about when bubonic plague appeared in Europe and to provide basic references in answers. I intend to reply myself, to some extent duplicating what Bryan has said, but focusing on what I have just said, not accepting undocumented interpretations of history. $\endgroup$ – David Jun 29 at 11:55


The heritable immunity you are describing is due to selective pressures on populations where individuals with certain alleles have a survival advantage in the face of particular pathogens. If a population is exposed to deadly diseases like smallpox and there are some individuals in the population who are more resistant, those individuals are more likely to survive to reproduce so future generations will have more resistant individuals. You could think of this as immune system "hardware."

Vaccines trigger the immune system's ability to recognize past infective agents and therefore mount a rapid specific antibody response when exposed to that pathogen again. You could think of this as immune system "software." This software that is aquired during the lifetime is not present in the genome of germ line cells and is not transmitted to offspring.

  • $\begingroup$ Is there any scientific evidence or specific mechanism(s) for what you a re saying $\endgroup$ – user52352 Jun 29 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ @user52352 You can read about the adaptive immune system starting with Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_immune_system or any biology textbook. To learn about evolution and heredity you can start with evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/home.php $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jun 29 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ Those don't seem to mention the genocide if the native Americans, or your hardware distinction whatever is meant by that $\endgroup$ – user52352 Jun 29 at 8:23

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