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Four Common Misconceptions About Vaccines

September 21, 2017

Vaccines help to prevent disease, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them that keep people from getting immunized. Here are the most common:

Vaccines Cause Autism

One of the most common and persistent myths about vaccinations is that they play a role in the development of autism. People who state this claim often say ingredients in vaccines, such as thimerosal, which contains mercury, can cause autism. However, study after study has proven this false. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even issued a statement in 2015 saying there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Vaccines Actually Cause Disease & Have Severe Side Effects

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s a common misconception that so-called “hot lots” of vaccines are linked to more deaths and negative side effects than other types of vaccines, so people often avoid getting these immunizations. Another common misconception is that you’ll actually get the flu if you get the flu shot. 

Yes, there have been reports of adverse events for certain vaccines, like the flu shot. However, vaccines are thoroughly vetted and tested before they are made available to the general public, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint whether the reason for the negative reaction actually is the vaccine itself or some other cause. And while vaccines often contain a small amount of the virus, the virus is actually inactivated, which means it can’t infect you with the flu. The vaccine actually takes up to two weeks to begin working in the body, so in the interim you could get sick. In this case, the vaccine didn’t actually cause the flu — you already were on the verge of getting the virus before you were vaccinated.

The risks of not getting vaccinated outweigh any benefit you’d get from avoiding immunization. According to the CDC, when less than 90 percent of children in a given community are vaccinated, it increases the risk of infectious disease spread in that community. About 3 percent of American children aren’t immunized and these children tend to live in clustered communities, which increases the risk for people who live there. Vaccines don’t actually cause disease — but not getting immunized certainly can. 

I Don’t Need a Vaccine

There’s another myth that improved hygiene and sanitation — and not vaccines — have led to reduced rates of infectious disease, so people don’t need to get immunized. While society has evolved, so has medicine. The incidence of measles, in particular, declined when people began to get vaccinated. We’ve seen similar patterns for other infectious diseases.

Vaccines are especially important for young children and the elderly, who may have weak or compromised immune systems. Vaccines are effective in 85-95 percent of children who are vaccinated, according to government data. Vaccines also prevent 2.5 million deaths each year and even have helped to eliminate certain diseases or make them obsolete, like smallpox and polio. 

I also hear some patients say they’re so strong that they don’t need to be vaccinated. Vaccines have nothing to do with physical strength. Even the healthiest immune system can be compromised during a bad cold and flu season, and getting vaccinated can make your symptoms less severe even if you do get sick. 

There’s no reason not to get vaccinated, so don’t let these myths prevent you from protecting yourself and your family. 

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