Editor’s note: This post was updated April 2019 to reflect current data.
Most people understand vaccinations are important. However, there is no shortage of vaccination myths, misinformation, falsehoods and downright lies that continue to circulate.
Dr. Jennifer Strong, family medicine physician at Marshfield Clinic Health System, shares her responses to some of the common vaccination myths she and her colleagues hear daily from their patients.
Myth: Vaccines cause autism.
False! Two studies published by a physician that claimed to link the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination to autism were proven to be flawed. Studies completed since have reassured us that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
Myth: An infant’s immune system can’t handle so many vaccines at one time.
Wrong! The common cold challenges the immune system far more than a vaccine. The immune system fends off thousands of antigen attacks every day while a vaccine only contains a few antigens. The immune system is made to work and children can develop allergies if their immune system isn’t challenged enough.
Myth: Vaccines have damaging, long-term side-effects that are yet unknown and can even be fatal.
Vaccines are more strictly monitored than anything else in medicine. The federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System collects information about adverse events and possible side effects after licensed vaccines are given. VAERS administrators email U.S. pediatricians when multiple adverse reactions are discovered for a particular vaccination. Reports are open to the public.
Myth: Vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eradicated, so there is no reason to be vaccinated.
Very wrong! The ongoing measles outbreaks in 2019 are a classic example. Every disease we vaccinate for still exists somewhere in the world. There are pockets of people who aren’t vaccinated for these diseases and can become seriously ill should they come in contact with a carrier. We need to keep vaccinating to not see these diseases on a regular basis.
Myth: Vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses are just an unfortunate fact of life.
That “unfortunate fact of life” can lead to death. We only vaccinate against diseases that can cause long-term damage or death. There’s a reason why we don’t vaccinate against the common cold.