Doctors have been battling the myths and concerns of parents for many years. There is so much contradicting information available at many sources that it leaves parents concerned about what is the right thing to do for their children.
We aim to address the numerous Myths associated with vaccination, none of which have been scientifically proven to be true after extensive research. All parents should know the fact that it is not just completely safe to vaccinate children but also essential that every child is vaccinated, especially young children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
This debate began with the publishing of a study in the late 1990s linking the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and these rumours have flourished since. The study has since been discredited, the co-authors have withdrawn their support, and the medical journal has retracted the study.
FACT: Vaccines are safe and are not related to any disorder including autism. (1)
Studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. Since 2003 there have been 9 CDC funded studies to research if an ingredient in vaccines, thimerosal is linked to ASD, but no link has been found between any ingredient in vaccines and ASD.
FACT: Vaccines may have some side-effects.(2)
While it is true that vaccinations can cause minor side effects like swelling and pain at the site of injection and occasionally cause fever, the cases of serious side effects like full-blown allergies are extremely rare and few.
It is important for parents to understand these side effects if any, are small and will vanish in a few days. They are minor when compared against the seriousness of diseases like measles, tetanus, hepatitis B, and many more they protect against. The diseases vaccines provide protection against can prove potentially fatal, especially in small children.
FACT: Vaccines are made of completely safe ingredients and antibodies to boost the immune system.
(3)A common worry parents have is that vaccines will pump their child’s fragile immune system with harmful toxins.
While it is true that today’s children receive more vaccines than children in the ‘80s or ‘90s (14 today before the age of 2, compared to 8 then), parents should remember that they also provide protection against almost twice as many diseases as children were protected against then.
Vaccines are primarily sterile water and antigens which produce antibodies to develop immunity. They also contain a trace of other ingredients like preservatives and stabilisers to make them more effective. If you are concerned about your child’s exposure to toxins because of vaccination, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
FACT: The Flu vaccine is essential for anyone above 6 months of age to protect against the flu outbreak.
The virus which is responsible for the annual influenza or flu outbreak, changes from year to year. Every year, scientists update the flu vaccine to provide immunity against that year’s influenza outbreak.
With all the research scientists put in, Flu vaccines are highly effective in protecting the fragile population – children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women and the elderly against seasonal flu. Flu vaccines significantly lower the incidence of flu-related illnesses, doctors visits, and hospitalisation. A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related hospitalisation by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. An annual flu vaccine is important as a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time and getting an annual vaccination will provide the best protection against the flu.
FACT: The vaccination schedule as given by your doctor should be strictly followed. (5)
Every vaccine is different.
FACT: Vaccines are essential to keep children safe from many dangerous diseases, however small their chances of contracting them. (6)
Some parents are of the opinion that their children don’t need vaccines against diseases like hepatitis B (HepB) and HPV as these are spread through bodily fluids and their children will not be exposed to these anyway.
Children are likely to come into contact with bodily fluid through scrapes, falls, and accidents. Some infants could also contract HepB from their mothers. The HepB vaccine provides protection against these occurrences and prepares the immune system for when they might encounter the worst complications of the disease.
FACT: By not vaccinating our children, we can expose the entire community to the disease.
(7) If a majority of the population in a community is vaccinated, the community experiences an effect called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”. This herd immunity, in turn, protects the elderly, those who are fragile and the very young who cannot be vaccinated against the diseases as the likelihood of the disease spreading in that community is low.
Sometimes parents hope to take advantage of this herd immunity effect and not get their children vaccinated. This is not recommended since if more parents choose against vaccination, they collectively bring down the immunity of the entire community, putting everyone at risk. More importantly, diseases which are rare now could make a comeback if not vaccinated against. In 1974, Japan had a successful pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination program, with nearly 80% of Japanese children vaccinated. That year only 393 cases of pertussis were reported in the entire country, with zero deaths. But due to rumors that the vaccination was no longer needed, by 1976 only 10% of infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979 Japan suffered a major pertussis epidemic, with more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths. In 1981, a vaccination program was started again and the number of pertussis cases dropped.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Paediatrics and WHO have repeatedly emphasised the importance and safety of vaccines. If not for vaccines, there would be 4 million cases of measles outbreak in the US alone, as compared to the rare handful we have today.
As a parent, it is important to make an informed choice and clarify whatever concerns you might have with your paediatrician. Remember, the choice to vaccinate your children is an important one and can have life-long consequences for your children. (8,9)