While a lot of conflicting data exists around vaccines, the
US Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization experts all agree
they are a necessary part of creating and maintaining public health. Below
we’ve outlined five key facts about vaccination, as well as some of the most
If you have any questions about vaccinations or which ones
are right for you, please talk to your health provider.
Here are five key facts about immunization from the World Health Organization.
- Fact 1: Immunization through vaccination is the safest way to protect against
disease. Whatever you might read or
hear, vaccines produce an immune response similar to that produced by the
natural infection, but without the serious risks of death or disability
connected with an actual infection.
- Fact 2: It is always best to get vaccinated, even when you think
the risk of infection is low. Deadly diseases that seem to have been all but eradicated have a
nasty habit of making a come-back when immunization rates drop – as we see with
the recent measles outbreaks across Europe. Only by making sure everyone gets
their vaccinations can we keep the lid permanently on vaccine-preventable
diseases. We should not rely on people around us to stop the spread of disease
– we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
- Fact 3: Combined vaccines are safe and beneficial. Giving several vaccines at the same time has
no negative effect on a child’s immune system. It reduces discomfort for the
child, and saves time and money. Children are exposed to more antigens from a
common cold than they are from vaccines.
- Fact 4: There is no link between vaccines and autism. There is no scientific evidence to link the measles, mumps, rubella
(MMR) vaccine with autism or
autistic disorders. This unfortunate rumor started with a single 1998 study
which was quickly found to be seriously flawed, and was retracted by the
journal that published it.
- Fact 5: If we stop vaccination, deadly diseases will return. Even with better hygiene, sanitation and
access to safe water, infections still spread. When people are not vaccinated,
infectious diseases that have become uncommon can quickly come back to haunt
But with all the facts out there, there are also plenty of
myths. Below we’ve debunked some of the top vaccine myths, as reported on publichealth.org.
- Myth 1: Vaccines cause autism. The widespread fear that vaccines
increase risk of autism originated with a 1998 study published by Andrew
Wakefield, a British surgeon. The article was published in The Lancet,
a prestigious medical journal, suggesting that the measles, mumps, rubella
(MMR) vaccine was increasing autism in British children. The paper has since
been completely discredited due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed
financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. Andrew Wakefield lost
his medical license and the paper was retracted from The Lancet.
- Myth #2: Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity. In
some cases, natural immunity — meaning actually catching a disease and getting
sick– results in a stronger immunity to the disease than a vaccination.
However, the dangers of this approach far outweigh the relative benefits. If
you wanted to gain immunity to measles, for example, by contracting the disease,
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 an MMR vaccine, is less
than 1 in 1,000,000.
- Myth #3: Vaccines contain unsafe toxins. People have concerns over the
use of formaldehyde, mercury or aluminum in vaccines. It’s true that these
chemicals are toxic to the human body in certain levels, but only trace amounts
of these chemicals are used in FDA approved vaccines. In fact, according to the
FDA and the CDC, formaldehyde is produced at higher rates by our own
metabolic systems and there is no scientific evidence that
the low levels of this chemical, mercury or aluminum in vaccines can be harmful.
- Myth #4: Vaccines aren’t worth the risk. Despite concerns, people
have been successfully vaccinated for decades. In fact, there has never been a
single credible study linking vaccines to long-term health conditions. As for
immediate danger from vaccines, in the form of allergic reactions or severe
side effects, the incidence of death are so rare they can’t even truly be
- Myth #5: 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
minority 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. But if too many people don’t vaccinate themselves or their
children, they contribute to a collective danger, opening up opportunities for
viruses and bacteria to establish themselves and spread.