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12 Top Myths about Vaccines

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
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Myths and misconceptions about vaccines are rampant, and the main reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

Myth 1: Vaccines are dangerous and deadly!

False. The common side-effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site; or fever are usually mild and temporary. Deaths related to vaccines are statistically insignificant. Their benefits significantly outweigh the associated risks.

Myth 2: Vaccines suppress natural immunity.

  • Wrong! Vaccines stimulate natural immunity by introducing live weakened germs or killed germs, or antigens from the germs to the immune system. The immune system then produces the protective antibodies and T-cells. When there is a real infection, the immune system is ready and waiting to combat.­

Myth 3: Multiple vaccines at one time means immune overload and more side-effects.

  • Wrong!! Number of studies have shown the safety and efficacy of this practice. It reduces the number of visits; saves time and money; reduces child trauma; starts early protection and improves patient convenience-and-compliance.
  • The body harbors millions of bacteria on skin, in mouth and in the gut. While handling these commensals, and through the common viral infections, the immune system is already handling multiple antigens capably on a daily basis.

Myth 4: Better to have a natural illness than a vaccine!

  • Wrong!! Natural infection more likely to cause a full-blown disease and its complications, including disability and death. Vaccination is a planned event and a matter of choice, whereas Natural infection is unplanned and a matter of chance. Getting immunity from vaccines is a much safer and practical option.

Myth 5: We cannot vaccinate during an illness.

  • Not totally true! This depends on the type of illness. Mild cough, cold and loose motions are usually no contra-indications. Vaccination is avoided in case of fever, sick look, severe symptoms or vaccine-specific contraindications. Live vaccines are avoided in patients of immune deficiencies, malignancies and in those on certain medicines like steroids or anti-cancer drugs.

Myth 6: Not vaccines, but good hygiene and sanitation, made the diseases disappear.

  • False! Vaccines eradicated Small Pox, and significantly controlled Polio, Measles and many other illnesses. There are instances when vaccination programs became lax or avoided certain vaccines, the diseases reappeared in big numbers.

Myth 7: My country is safe. I don’t need vaccines!

  • Wrong!! Globalization and world travel have increased transmission risk. Therefore, the individuals of any country will still need vaccine protection for their own safety, and also, for the safety of the rest of the community.

Myth 8: Vaccines like MMR cause Autism

False!! Multiple studies have found no evidence of this. The original paper claiming MMR-Autism connection, which was published in 1998 in Lancet journal, was later found to be flawed and was retracted.

Myth 9: Vaccines contain harmful mercury.

Wrong! Thimerosal, a mercury compound is used in small, safe quantities as a preservative in multi-dose vials flu- vaccines. Since 2001, the vaccine producers have stopped using it in pediatric vaccines.

Myth 10: Government Vaccination Schedules are enough for my child!

Not really true! Government schedule is usually only till the age of 18 months and is prioritized as per national requirements and budgetary provisions. Vaccines for older children and vaccines against diseases not covered in national program are often necessary. So, discuss with your doctor.

Myth 11: Past a certain age, no need for vaccines.

Wrong! In vaccination, the recommended age is usually the minimum age below which it cannot  be given. There is usually no upper age limit. If a vaccine is missed at a recommended age, mostly it still needs to be completed at a later age, with doctor’s advice.

Myth 12: Vaccine is a needless medical expense!

Wrong!! This misconception is because the vaccines are given to healthy individuals, where family feels no sense of urgency or emergency. The diseases, deaths and disabilities prevented by vaccines make vaccination priceless!

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