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 common myths.
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 This unfortunate rumor started with a single 1998 study which was quickly found to be seriously flawed, and was retracted by the journal that published it.
- strong>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 us.
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 calculated.
- 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.