Common Vaccine Misconceptions
This post is sponsored by I Vaccinate, who provides information and tools based on real medical science and research.
Vaccines continue to be a subject of contention, especially with the recently approved COVID-19 vaccines. While the debate exists, science and research has proven time and time again that vaccines are safe and effective. This post aims to clear up some of the most common vaccine misconceptions.
One thing I’ve found to be really helpful is this document that is tremendously useful in understanding the different types of logical fallacies used to justify the decision not to vaccinate. It’s important to note that although these arguments sound valid, the arguments are not sound and you can see why through the above link.
Finally, before I get into the bulk of this post, I also wanted to give you the opportunity to read why I choose to vaccinate my children. I hope this clears up any questions you may have and if you have more, make sure to use the resources I provide at the end of this post.
Vaccines can overload a child’s immune system
This is false. In fact, infants and children combat thousands of antigens on a daily basis – far more than are delivered in the recommended vaccine schedule.
Because vaccine technology has improved over the years, the number of antigens required to produce an immune response has decreased. This means that although the number of different vaccines a child gets is now greater, they actually contain fewer antigens.
Vaccines cause autism
This is one of the biggest common vaccine misconceptions and it is important to note that the initial study that first brought this concern to light — one published in The Lancet in 1998 — has since been retracted for scientific misconduct, containing fraudulent and misrepresented data. Since then, many studies have been done to check for a link between autism and vaccines and none has been determined.
Another concern regarding vaccines and autism is that thimerosal, a mercury containing preservative, was responsible for causing autism, but this was also disproved through several studies. It is also no longer used in any vaccines except multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine and it is important to note that breastfed infants are exposed to 15 times more mercury in breastmilk than is found in the flu vaccine.
For more information and links to several studies disproving a link between vaccines and autism, please visit the CDC website on autism and vaccines.
Vaccines are linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Because the age range when infants begin receiving vaccines also correlates with the age range of SIDS cases, some suspected that vaccines may be the cause. Remember, however, that correlation does not prove causation. Several studies have proved that there is no link between vaccines and SIDS.
With the updated recommendation that babies be placed on their backs to sleep by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1992, there was a significant decrease in the number of SIDS cases.
A delayed vaccine schedule is better
The CDC developed the childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — which is comprised of medical and public health experts. The schedule is also accepted by by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Because we know that vaccines do not overload a child’s immune system, there is no benefit to delaying vaccines or following an alternative schedule. In fact, delaying vaccines puts a child at risk for developing a preventable illness during that time period, which is an unnecessary risk.
If, for some reason, a parent is still concerned about the number of shots their child receives, there is some flexibility built into the current schedule that would allow them to elect to space out certain doses. Keep in mind, however, that the earlier a child receives protection from a disease, the better.
Doctors are paid to administer vaccines
No. In fact, a study published in the journal Pediatrics found that physicians often lose money and that the costs of giving vaccines exceed the amount of that they are reimbursed from insurance companies.
The flu vaccine causes the flu
It is impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine because it contains an inactive (dead) form of the virus.
There are a couple reasons why people may think this:
- People may get sick with other viruses such as the common cold during flu season.
- It is possible to contract the virus prior to getting immunized or during the two week period following when the body’s immune system is developing protection.
- There are many different strains of flu virus. Each year, the best approximation is made as to which strains to protect against, but a person may contract a strain that is not included in that year’s shot.
I never get the flu, so I don’t need a flu vaccine
The fact that a person has never gotten the flu only means that they haven’t gotten the flu — not that they won’t get it in the future. Getting an annual flu shot helps protect you against that possibility and also protects others around you who may not be able to get the same protection. It can only help if you happen to be exposed to the influenza virus.
Pregnant women should not get the COVID-19 vaccine
Vaccines typically go through years of testing before final approval, but due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, its vaccine was approved much faster, not allowing for as extensive of testing as many would like.
Many of the concerns around the vaccine surround pregnancy and fertility, and while the results are not one hundred percent conclusive, there are certain recommendations provided. Ultimately, it is up to each woman to make an educated decision based on science about whether or not to receive the vaccine while pregnant.
The COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines. They do not contain the COVID-19 virus and therefore can not give someone COVID-19. They also do not disrupt a person’s DNA because mRNA does not enter the nucleus of a cell. Based on how they work, scientists do not believe that they pose a specific risk to pregnant women, but because they haven’t been studied in pregnant women due to the timeline of development and distribution, the actual risks are currently unknown.
What is known, however, is that a pregnant woman who contracts COVID-19 has an increased risk of severe illness. You can read more about the COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy in this post by the CDC.
The COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or sterilization, and these statements have been dubbed as “misinformation” by the Associated Press. Leading reproductive health experts agree that the COVID-19 vaccines do not impact fertility.
For answers to many other common vaccine misconceptions and more resources about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, please visit the I Vaccinate website. For specific questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.
What are some other common vaccine misconceptions that you’ve heard?