Dispelling Five Common Myths about Vaccines

Anyone who reads The Parenting Patch knows that I am 100% pro-vaccination. In my researched opinion, the only time that an individual should skip out on a vaccination is in the event of a legitimate medical complication such as an allergy to a component in the vaccine or a weakened immune system that is counter-indicative to vaccination. In all other cases, everyone should be vaccinated with every vaccine available. My husband and I are both fully vaccinated. Our daughter is on her way to being fully vaccinated as her age allows. Even our cat and dog are fully vaccinated. Vaccines save lives. I will not put myself or my family at risk over the erroneous hype surrounding vaccines.

Small Pox VaccineRecently while reading up on vaccines, I came across a great article that discusses five myths surrounding vaccination. In my effort to spread the word about the benefits and necessity of vaccines, I want to reiterate those myths, respond with the truth, and provide my thoughts on each topic.

Myth 1: Vaccines are no longer necessary.

Many misinformed people believe that vaccines are no longer necessary because vaccination has eradicated many diseases from the human population. The truth is, however, that the only disease that has been eradicated by vaccines is the small pox. All other diseases such as the measles, whooping cough (pertussis), and polio are still out there. In the United States, both the measles and whooping cough have been making a comeback because too many parents are opting out of vaccines for their children. Furthermore, although polio is largely a problem in developing countries, the disease could be spread to the United States again via international travel. Unless as many people as possible are vaccinated, these highly preventable diseases will continue to make a resurgence, putting lives unnecessarily at risk.

Myth 2: Children get too many vaccines too early.

Some parents believe that giving babies so many shots at such a young age is potentially harmful. Yes, children today get more vaccines that children just twenty years ago. However, the truth is that children are exposed to many more pathogens in their daily lives than could ever be administered in a vaccine. Furthermore, the strength of current vaccines are much lower than in the past, so, although children do get more vaccines, the number of active molecules present in each shot is lower than ever before.

Myth 3: The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.

In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study that linked autism to the MMR vaccine. In 2010, the journal that originally published his study retracted the article. Wakefield had his medical license revoked, and he has been banned from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom. After years of trying to reproduce Wakefield’s results, the medical community determined that Wakefield’s study was fraudulent. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Unfortunately, too many parents jumped on the bandwagon, believing the fraudulent study. Even today, too many misinformed individuals still believe that vaccines cause autism. The truth, however, is that no study to date has confirmed a linked between autism and vaccines. In fact, the rates of autism among vaccinated and unvaccinated children are almost identical, indicating that autism is not linked to vaccines but is instead caused by some other, unknown factor. Parents, the truth is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.

Myth 4: Vaccines are not 100% safe.

Many people believe that vaccines are not 100% safe. The truth is that, no, vaccines are not 100% safe. However, when considering safety, one must weigh the pros and cons of vaccination versus the pros and cons of opting out of vaccines. Because most vaccines are given via a shot, the most common vaccine side effect is pain, redness, and tenderness at the injection site. Sometimes but rarely, more serious side effects can occur. However, the side effects and complications of the diseases that are highly preventable with vaccines far outweigh any potential side effects of the vaccines. For example, complications of the measles include ear infection; bronchitis, laryngitis, or croup; pneumonia; encephalitis (swelling of the brain); thrombocytopenia (low platelet count); and death. Complications of the chicken pox include Reye’s syndrome (brain and liver damage), mycarditis (swelling of the heart), pneumonia, arthritis, death of the fetus in pregnant women, and death. Negative reactions to the diseases prevented by vaccination are far more common than negative reactions to the vaccines that prevent the diseases. So, no, vaccines are not 100% safe, but getting the disease that is easily prevented by a vaccine is not safe at all.

Myth 5: Vaccines do not work.

Unless you grew up over fifty years ago, you likely have never seen the devastating effects of many of the diseases now preventable through vaccines. Parents my age have not had to watch as our children were paralyzed by polio. My own grandmother developed diabetes in her forties after she contracted a case of the mumps. Because parents nowadays have not had to endure diseases like the measles, mumps, rubella, and polio, all too many people believe that vaccines no longer work. The reasoning is that, if no one is getting sick from these diseases anymore, then vaccination is no longer necessary. However, vaccines do work and are currently hard at work preventing the reassurance of potentially debilitating yet easily preventable diseases. Furthermore, as fewer parents are choosing vaccination for their children, more and more outbreaks of these so-called diseases of the past are occurring. Vaccines work. Only not vaccinating lowers the efficiency of vaccines overall.

Too many parents are opting out of vaccinating their children because they believe one or more of these common myths about vaccines. The truth, however, is that vaccines are necessary and safe, even for young babies.

Do you vaccinate?


5 dangerous vaccination myths: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/509-dangerous-vaccination-myths.html
Chickenpox: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001592.htm
History of vaccine schedule: http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-schedule/history-of-vaccine-schedule.html
A physician’s guide for anti-vaccine parents: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423131344.htm
Measles complications: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/measles/DS00331/DSECTION=complications
A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa021134

Image Credits

Small Pox Vaccine: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Smallpox_vaccine.jpg

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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