DEBUNKING THE DANGERS OF VACCINES
Anyone with school-age children has likely heard other parents’ objections to having their child vaccinated. That misguided decision puts many people at risk. It is important for you to be armed with facts in order to counter those objections and misconceptions.
Here are some common reasons people give for avoiding vaccines — and why they’re wrong.
Myth: You can get sick from a vaccine
Unless someone has a very compromised immune system — which is a medical condition — the human body is built to work with vaccines. Examples of people with compromised immune systems include people with cancer, undergoing chemotherapy, diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, sick with tuberculosis, and taking medications that suppress the immune system.
Catching a few colds each winter does NOT mean that someone has a weakened immune system. Unless someone has a medical condition that causes weakened immunity, vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccines are made from weakened or killed organisms that cannot cause illness in a healthy immune system. In fact, vaccines work with the immune system to make it even stronger and more protective. Anyone worried about a child’s health or immune system status should consult a pediatrician.
Some people experience side effects after receiving vaccines, including mild redness or swelling at the injection site, a low-grade fever, drowsiness, and/or rash. But these typically go away on their own in a day or two. These minor reactions do not mean that a vaccine has caused illness. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
Myth: Vaccines can cause autism and other illnesses and disabilities
There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The original research that suggested this link has been more than just rejected — it’s been labeled as falsified and fabricated data. The author himself has come forward to denounce the research.
All vaccines have gone through rigorous clinical trials. They have all withstood the strict regulations set by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). All vaccines have been scientifically deemed safe and there is no sufficient evidence to suggest otherwise. This includes the misbelief that vaccines cause autism or that vaccines can overwhelm a child’s immune system.
The anti-vaccine movement that spreads this misinformation is a highly effective interest group that is not supported by scientists and public health experts.
Myth: If most people get vaccinated and most of these diseases have been reduced so much already, then it’s not necessary to risk having my child vaccinated
While vaccines have reduced most vaccine-preventable diseases to very low levels in many countries, including the United States, there are still some diseases that are prevalent or even epidemic in some parts of the world. People who travel may unknowingly transport disease from one country to another. Without proper vaccination, such diseases can quickly spread.
Vaccines work through herd immunity — which means that unless at least 95 percent of a population is protected against a specific disease, there may be outbreaks of that illness, which can quickly spread. That is what has been happening recently with measles in the United States. That is why it is crucial that everyone who can be vaccinated stay up to date with vaccines — to protect themselves from illness and to protect more vulnerable members of the community who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. That is the only way to make vaccine-preventable diseases disappear.
Myth: It should be a parents’ choice whether or not to vaccinate their child
There are some things considered so important for the public health of society as a whole that they are required of everybody living in that society. Children have to wear seatbelts or use a child safety seat while in a car. They have to wear helmets when riding a bicycle. Parents can’t decide not to secure their children in car seats just because they disagree with those laws.
Vaccines fall into this category. They are so essential to public health that they are required. Not vaccinating children puts those children plus everyone else in a community at risk.
Myth: Some vaccines, like the flu vaccine, don’t work very well, so there’s really no point
Like other medications, vaccines are carefully regulated and not able to enter the market unless they’re deemed significantly effective. Years of research need to prove that the drug or vaccine works. The FDA has extremely stringent rules and regulations to ensure that only effective and safe drugs enter the market. This is one of the reasons it takes years — 10 years or more on average — for prescription medications and vaccines to become widely available and why only one in 5,000 new drugs makes it to the market.
The flu vaccine is a slightly different case, since it must be reformulated every year to respond to global flu virus trends. Each year scientists monitor flu outbreaks around the world to try and predict which viral strains will pose a threat in their countries. They formulate the vaccine for that year to counter those specific strains of the virus.
Some years the predictions are more accurate than others, and the vaccine is more effective. The flu vaccine’s effectiveness also depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine. In fact, stronger doses are recommended for people over 65, to spark a stronger immune response.
But getting the flu vaccine, as long as there are no medical contraindications, is always a wise choice. Even when the match between the vaccine and the viruses in circulation is less than ideal, getting vaccinated generally results in a milder case of illness if a vaccinated person is exposed to the flu.
Remember, the flu is not just a bad cold. The flu is a potentially deadly illness. The CDC estimates that in 2016-2017, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million flu-related medical visits, and 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations in the United States.
Concern: I’m not anti-vaccine, but I don’t think my child should get combination vaccines or get so many different vaccines at the same time.
The U.S. CDC vaccine schedule recommended for children has been carefully developed with scientific trials to identify the most effective and safe way to protect children. Scientific evidence supports the idea that simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system.
These vaccines cannot overwhelm the immune system. The decision to space them out differently than the medically recommended schedule is a bad idea. Research shows that inappropriately spacing out or delaying vaccinations can be problematic because it means there’s a bigger window of time when a child is unprotected.
Spacing out vaccines does not protect children. It actually puts them at greater risk of disease.
Concern: It’s not the virus but the chemicals in vaccines I’m worried about.
One recurring concern is that some vaccines, such as the influenza (flu) vaccine, contain mercury in a form called thimerosal, used as a preservative. But unlike the mercury that’s ingested when someone eats certain types of fish, the mercury in vaccines doesn’t remain in the body and is quickly eliminated. No link has even been found between this preservative and autism.
Thimerosal was taken out of U.S. childhood vaccines in 2001, according to the CDC. Removing thimerosal seemed to have no effect on the rate of reported autism cases in the U.S., which continue to rise. In 2004 an estimated one in 166 8-year-olds were diagnosed with autism, while based on 2014 data the CDC estimated that in 2018 that number would rise to one in 59, according to Autism Speaks.
Common vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella (chickenpox), inactivated polio (IPV), and pneumococcal conjugate do not contain any mercury and have never had any mercury.
Thimerosal, which has been deemed safe by the FDA, is only used in vaccines when considered necessary to the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Only a few vaccines still contain thimerosal as a preservative, including some versions of the Influenza (flu) vaccine, which are currently available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions.
The thimerosal was not removed from childhood vaccines because of fears of autism, but rather to reduce lifetime exposure to mercury.
Drugs, medications, and vaccinations are not approved by the FDA if any piece or part of the drug is harmful or ineffective, or even just not effective enough. Vaccines, like any other medication that enters the market, go through years of research and multiple phases of clinical trials to ensure their safety and effectiveness.