Vaccines are one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. Today, diseases such as measles, smallpox, whooping cough, or rubella, just to name a few, can be completely prevented with a simple injection.
As science continues to advance and tackle new challenges, people should not forget how many deaths and illnesses vaccines have prevented, and how they continue to protect us from potentially devastating forms of infectious disease
Myth #1: Vaccines cause autism.
- The widespread fear that vaccines increase risk of autism originated with a 1997 study published by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon. The study has been proven to be false based on several errors that were made when conducting the study. Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license as a result.
- Several other major studies were conducted and NONE of them found a link between any vaccine and the likelihood of developing autism.
Myth #2: Infant immune systems can't handle so many vaccines.
- Infant immune systems are stronger than you might think. Based on the number of antibodies present in the blood, a baby theoretically could respond to around 10,000 vaccines at one time. The immune system could never truly be overwhelmed because the cells in the system are constantly being replenished.
- Though there are more vaccinations than ever before, today's vaccines are far more efficient.
Myth #3: Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity.
- In some cases, natural immunity — meaning catching a disease and getting sick– results in a stronger immunity to the disease than a vaccination. However, the dangers of this far outweigh the benefits. For example, if you contracted the measles you would face a 1 in 500 chance of death from your symptoms. In contrast, the number of people who have had severe allergic reactions from a Measles vaccine is less than 1 in 1 million.
Myth #4: Vaccines contain unsafe toxins.
- People have concerns over the use of formaldehyde, mercury, and aluminum in vaccines. It's true that these chemicals are toxic to the human body in high levels, but only very small amounts of these chemicals are used in FDA approved vaccines. There is no scientific evidence that the low levels of these chemicals used in vaccines are harmful.
Myth #5: Better hygiene and sanitation are responsible for decreased infections, not vaccines.
- It is true that better hygiene, nutrition, and sanitation have helped decrease rates of infectious diseases however vaccines have also helped. For example, when the first measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 there were around 400,000 cases a year. By 1970 there were around 25,000 cases. Another example is Hib disease with 20,000 cases in 1990 to around 1,500 in 1993.
Myth #6: Vaccines aren't worth the risk.
- Despite parent concerns, children have been successfully vaccinated for decades. In fact, there has never been a single credible study linking vaccines to long term health conditions. The rate of severe allergic reactions to vaccines is usually 1 case for every 1 or 2 million injections.
Myth #7: Vaccines can infect my child with the disease it's trying to prevent.
- Vaccines can sometimes cause mild symptoms similar to the disease they are protecting against however the small percentage (less than 1 in 1 million cases) where symptoms do occur, the vaccine recipients are experiencing the body's immune response to the vaccine, not the disease itself.
Myth #8: We don't need to vaccinate because infection rates are already so low in the United States.
- Thanks to "herd immunity," so long as a large majority of people are immunized in any population, even the unimmunized people will be protected. With so many people resistant, an infectious disease will never get a chance to establish itself and spread. This is important because there will always be a portion of the population – infants, pregnant women, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems – that can't receive vaccines.
- if too many people don't vaccinate themselves or their children, they contribute to a collective danger, opening opportunities for viruses and bacteria to establish themselves and spread.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn, that international travel could expose a person to a disease that is not a threat in your country however may be common elsewhere. If someone were to carry in a disease from abroad, an unvaccinated individual will be at far greater risk of getting sick if he or she is exposed.
To read more vaccine myths debunked.