Myths and Facts About Vaccines

Vaccinations are an important part of protecting your child’s health. Vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness, and Dr. Margaret Lubega strongly recommends that you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) schedule for childhood immunizations. Some misconceptions about vaccination have taken hold, however, even prompting some people to decide against vaccinating their kids. Here, the team at First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina, helps you get the facts behind the myths about vaccines. Myth: Vaccines cause autism Fact: This unfortunate belief was spread by a paper in 1998 that claimed a link between vaccines and autism. Several years later, the study was proved to be false. There is no correlation between vaccines and autism. Myth: Vaccines give your child a disease Fact: Vaccinations protect your child against disease. The vast majority of vaccines are made with an inactive, or “killed,” virus, so there’s no chance of getting the actual disease from the vaccine itself. A couple of vaccines contain live virus, including oral polio and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella); however, the risk of contracting the disease from the vaccine is extremely small. Myth: Vaccines have too many side effects Fact: The side effects from most vaccines are mild. These include swelling or soreness at the injection site, a mild fever, chills, and general malaise. These reactions generally go away within hours but could last for a day or two. It is estimated that out of 1 million vaccinations, one or two people have a serious allergic reaction. Myth: We don’t need vaccines because the diseases have been wiped out Fact: Many diseases have been nearly eradicated in certain parts of the world, including the United States. However, when vaccination rates decline, the diseases come back. This is evident with recent outbreaks of measles, which has seen a resurgence of cases after too many parents stopped vaccinating for it. An important component in how vaccines work is something called herd immunity, which means outbreaks are less likely to occur when nearly everyone in your community is fully vaccinated. Myth: Giving too many vaccines at once can overwhelm a child’s immune system Fact: Some parents are concerned about the number of vaccines that are administered in early childhood, but it’s important to remember that the vaccine schedule is determined by the CDC and all of the vaccines are recommended at a certain time for a reason. For example, babies get some natural immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella from their mothers at birth. The vaccine is timed for when that residual immunity wears off. Myth: Vaccines contain mercury and other dangerous chemicals Fact: Vaccines do contain some scary-sounding ingredients like formaldehyde. However, it’s important to note that these are present in only very small and safe amounts. The amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is smaller than that which is naturally present in the body. Some parents worry about mercury in vaccines. Thimerosal, which contains about 50% mercury, was phased out of use for routine childhood vaccinations in 2001. Today, only the flu shot contains thimerosal. Vaccines are safe, and the diseases they protect against are still real, serious threats. Protect your child and your community by making sure your child is fully vaccinated. If you have any concerns about vaccines, Dr. Lubega is happy to discuss them with you.

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