Vaccination Myths & And Facts

February 28, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Vaccinations remain the key factor in preventing illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus pneumonia, rotavirus measles, pertussis and, diarrhoea. Despite its widespread prevalence, there are still several myths associated with vaccinations. Here are some of the more common myths and facts about vaccinations.

Gap Medics student Jessica with new born baby in Tanzania. Myth: Vaccinations are unnecessary. Improved hygiene and sanitation will make most diseases disappear

Fact: The diseases that are now eradicated by vaccines will return if vaccination programs are discontinued. While better hygiene, sanitation and clean water offer some protection against infectious diseases, many infections can spread irrespective of how clean we are. If people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon, such as measles and polio, will reappear quickly.

Myth: Vaccines have several long-term damaging side-effects and can even be fatal

Fact: All approved vaccines have been tested and are very safe. Reactions if any are usually temporary and minor, such as a mild fever or a sore spot. Very serious reactions are extremely rare and are carefully monitored and investigated. Serious, long-term reactions are more likely to be caused by a vaccine-preventable disease such as measles, which can cause blindness and encephalitis or polio, which can cause paralysis.

Myth: Babies in developed countries do not need to be vaccinated as vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eradicated in these countries 

Fact: Although most vaccine preventable diseases are almost unheard of in most developed countries, the infectious causative agents continue to circulate in some parts of the world. In a highly inter-connected world, these agents can cross geographical borders and infect anyone who is not protected. Vaccinations are the only way to stop individual infections as well as a nation-wide outbreak. 

Myth: The polio vaccine and the combined DTP vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis can cause sudden infant death syndrome

Fact: There is no proven link between vaccines and sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. The fact is these vaccines are given at the same time when babies are prone to suffer SIDS, which is why the two came to be linked. The fact is sudden death syndrom would have occurred regardless of whether or not the baby was vaccinated.

Myth: Vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses are just an unfortunate fact of life

Fact: They shouldn’t have to be. Illnesses such as mumps, measles and rubella are serious and can lead to severe complications in both children and adults. Some diseases can even cause death. Failure to vaccinate against these diseases leaves children unnecessarily susceptible. 

Myth: Influenza vaccine is unnecessary and not very effective

Fact: Influenza is much more than a nuisance. It is a serious disease that kills thousands of people around the world every year. Small children, pregnant women, the aged and anyone with a chronic condition, like heart disease or asthma are at higher risk for severe infection and death. Vaccination offers immunity against some of the most prevalent strains circulating in any given season, which means avoiding extra medical care costs and lost income from missing days of work or school.

Myth: Vaccines contain mercury which is dangerous

Fact: Many vaccines contain Thiomersal, an organic, mercury-containing compound that acts as a preservative, especially for vaccines that are provided in multi-dose vials. There is no evidence to suggest that the amount of thiomersal used in vaccines poses a health risk.

Myth: Vaccines cause autism

Fact: The study done in 1998 which raised concerns about a possible link between autism and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was later found to be seriously flawed, and the paper has been retracted by the journal that published it. Unfortunately, the damage was done and the subsequent dropping of immunization rates led to several outbreaks of these diseases. The fact is there is no evidence of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders.