The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is concerned about the growing misconceptions about vaccines. A growing number of parents refuse to take their children for vaccination claiming that it causes autism and other chronic conditions. Are vaccines safe? Too much information is making rounds and the anti-vaccine movement is circulating false information based on conspiracy theories and fear as compared to scientific evidence. This article explores these anti-vaccine myths and provides expert advice about the facts and evidence on whether or not vaccines are necessary.
Myth 1: Too Many Shots Affect the Immune System
Parents are delaying vaccines for their children with the claim that too many shots can overwhelm their children’s immune system. This false belief presumably states that all these vaccines may harm the kids due to their weak immune system, thus causing autoimmune diseases, autism, death, and other chronic diseases.
Fact: The moment your baby is born; he/she is bombarded by millions of bacteria which must be prevented from attacking the cells. According to the World Health Organization, scientific evidence shows no negative effects of giving children several vaccinations simultaneously.
Myth 2: Vaccines Cause Autism
A 1998 study about vaccines raised concerns about the possibility of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causing autism. The study was later found to be seriously fraudulent and flawed and was retracted from the publishing journal. Unfortunately, the reports had already been circulated and many parents refused to take their children for immunization. This lead to subsequent outbreaks of autism.
Fact: There isn’t any scientific evidence linking the MMR vaccines and autism or autistic disorders for that matter.
Myth 3: There Is No Need for Vaccination Since Polio and Smallpox Have Disappeared
Several countries including India and Australia were declared measles-free which means good news for the global health community. The problem is when we stop being vigilant about vaccinations and outbreaks start to reappear. A case in point is the measles epidemic in Wales in 2013 where over 800 cases were reported. Similarly, the CDC confirmed receiving 292 reports of measles cases from several states in the District of Columbia. Elsewhere in Europe, more than 41,000 measles cases have been reported.
Fact: The reappearance of such outbreaks is based on vaccine complacency which points to the need for consistent vaccination even when we think the preventable diseases have been eradicated.
Myth 4: Vaccines Contain Mercury Which is Toxic
Vaccines contain the preservative, thimerosal, which has mercury. However, this is a different compound than mercury, and it was removed from vaccines back in 2009 despite research showing that it’s safe. Unfortunately, most people still believe vaccines contain thimerosal and other ingredients that could cause more harm. Conspiracy theories about the CDC hiding data about mercury are not true and vaccines containing thimerosal expired back in 2003.
Fact: There are still spikes in autism which clearly shows that the preservative had no side effects.
Myth 5: My Unvaccinated Child Doesn’t Put Your Vaccinated Child at Risk
There are people who believe that because other people are vaccinated, their unvaccinated children shouldn’t pose any threat. What they fail to understand is that ‘community immunity’ or ‘herd immunity’ prevents the outbreaks of epidemics. Places where vaccination levels are low, see a rapid spread of communicable diseases. Whereas, in places where vaccination levels are high, containing the spread of the disease becomes easy since most of the population is immunized.
Myth 6: Vaccines Aren’t Safe
Anti-vaccine folks are arguing that preventable diseases could’ve been eradicated were it not for the introduction of a specific vaccine. They also claim that a healthy diet and clean water can eradicate these preventable diseases. If this were true, does it mean that people who died of polio or diphtheria in the 18th century didn’t have access to clean water and healthy diets?
Fact: Vaccines work effectively and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that each vaccine goes through stringent testing before offering it to the public. Plus, the CDC and FDA continue to monitor vaccine-related issues to keep everyone safe.
Myth 7: Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Aren’t That Serious
This is one of the most dangerous and careless statements ever. Most vaccine-preventable diseases have either been eradicated or drastically reduced, thanks to vaccines. These diseases are life-threatening and have very serious side effects. For instance, in the pre-vaccine years:
- Each year, over 200,000 cases of diphtheria were reported with 15,000 deaths recorded annually.
- More than 270,000 cases of pertussis and over 10,000 deaths were reported each year in the U.S. only.
These are just a few statistical examples of how serious vaccine-preventable disease can be. These outbreaks can come back in full force if vaccinations were stopped today.
Summing it Up
The internet has become a platform for spreading false information and quackery about vaccines. Despite the huge scientific evidence showing zero relation between vaccines and autism, there’s a group of people who are still against immunization. This not only puts their children and family at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases but the whole community as well.