2020, April, Health Info

Vaccine Myths Debunked

Vaccine Myths Debunked

Written by Mr. Dennis Ting
Senior Pharmacist

Misconceptions about vaccine safety have been debated for decades.  Despite numerous credible studies that favour the benefits of vaccination, there are still numerious cases where patients do not want to vaccinate their children or themselves for various reasons. Fears over the safety of vaccines are understandable.

MYTHS

FACTS

MYTH 1
Vaccine causes autism
The widespread fear that vaccines increase risk of autism originated with a 1997 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 incidences of 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 Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license and the paper was retracted from The Lancet.

Until now, there is no credible scientific study linking vaccination to autism, and benefits outfavour the risk.

MYTH 2
Infant immune system can’t handle so many vaccines1

 

Infant immune system is stronger than you might think. The immune system could never truly be overwhelmed because the cells in the system are constantly being replenished.

Every day, a healthy baby’s immune system successfully fights off thousands of germs. Antigens are parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work to build antibodies, which fight off diseases.

The antigens in vaccines come from the germs themselves, but the germs are weakened or killed so they cannot cause serious illness. Even if babies receive several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens they encounter every day in their environment.

MYTH 3
I don’t need to vaccinate if everyone else does2
“Herd Immunity” reduces the chance of outbreak when a large percentage of a community is immunized against a disease.  However if too many people do not vaccinate, then it gives an opportunity for diseases to establish and spread, especially to those who are immunocompromised.
MYTH 4
Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity
In some cases, natural immunity 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 a MMR vaccine, is less than one in one million.
MYTH 5
Vaccines contain unsafe toxins3
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.

 

References:
1) Paul A. O, Jessica Q, Michael A. G. et al.  Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System? Pediatrics 2002;109;124-129
2) Kim, T. H., Johnstone, J., & Loeb, M. (2011). Vaccine herd effect. Scandinavian journal of infectious diseases, 43(9), 683–689. https://doi.org/10.3109/00365548.2011.582247
3) https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm