Doctors have been combating misconceptions about vaccine safety with mixed success. Despite numerous studies with no evidence to support the notion that vaccines cause autism, ADHD etc, few parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. Fears over the safety of vaccines are understandable. Research however shows that most of the fears about vaccinations are unfounded and the best way to protect your children is to make sure they receive all the vaccinations at the right time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting 29 doses of 9 vaccines (plus a yearly flu shot after six months old) for kids aged 0 to six. Following are some of the common vaccine myth that the research has shown to be baseless.
Autism is a condition in children resulting in difficulty in communication with others. The cause of autism is unknown. The widespread fear that MMR vaccine increase the risk of autism originated with a 1997 study published in The Lancet, (a famous medical journal) by a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield. The article suggested that the MMR vaccine increase the incidence of autism. The said paper was completely discredited and withdrawn by the Journal due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interests and ethical violations. His medical license was even cancelled for the above fraud. Several studies were conducted since then and found no link between any vaccine and autism. Though the true causes of autism remain unknown, several studies have identified appearance of symptoms of autism in children well before they receive MMR vaccine and there is evidence that autism develops well before a baby is born.
It’s partly true that natural immunity from catching the disease will result in stronger immunity than the one from getting vaccination. However, the risk of serious complications and death is very high and hence the dangers of this approach far outweigh the benefits. The chance of death from measles is 1 in 500 compared to the chance of severe life threatening allergy from MMR vaccine, which is only 1 in 1 million.
Infant’s immune systems are exposed to countless bacteria and viruses every day and are strong enough to handle and respond to them. Theoretically kids have the ability to respond to around 10,000 and more vaccines at one time. The vaccines that we administer based on our immunization schedule is very negligible compared to the capacity with which infant’s immune system can handle. The immune system of infants could never be overwhelmed because the cells in the system are constantly replenished, further immunization schedule contains vaccines for only very important and life threatening diseases.
Vaccines contained chemicals like formaldehyde, mercury or aluminum and it’s true that these chemicals are toxic to the human body if given in high levels. Vaccines contain only trace amount of these chemicals. There are a range of reasons, why these were used in vaccines. Aluminum hydroxide for example can help enhance the immune response and makes the vaccines more effective. Formaldehyde helps to kill viruses and preserve the vaccine from contamination. Vaccines that are currently manufactured are mercury free even though there is no connection between thiomersol (mercury) and autism.
When a large majority of people are immunized in any population, even the unimmunized minority will be protected and this phenomenon is called “Herd Immunity” This will help to protect indirectly those who cannot receive vaccination like infants, pregnant women and those with poor immune systems. But if too many people refuse to vaccinate then this herd immunity will be low in that population and will lead to easy spread of disease and will affect those vulnerable people who cannot get vaccinated. In the past, lot of young children and sometimes even the adults used to get affected and die due to diseases like small pox, measles, whooping cough etc. But in modern times we don’t see such thing, thanks to vaccines. It is very important to maintain the low levels of disease with adequate coverage of vaccination