Are vaccines safe?
Vaccines are extremely safe and necessary. Ironically, the need for vaccination has become less obvious due to its own success. The last known natural case of small pox occurred in 1977. Small pox disease was erased from the planet by the small pox vaccine. Hemophilus influenza was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis before the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1990. An infection that affected 15,000 people and killed 500 per year is now only seen about 50 times per year in all of the United States! Now to bust some myths!
Myth # 1 – nobody gets measles, polio, and diphtheria any more so the vaccine is not necessary. FALSE. These viruses still exist in the environment and will cause outbreaks if vaccination decreases. Your child is partially protected by herd immunity. That means vaccination of all children protects your child and even protects YOU from becoming infected.
Myth # 2 – Vaccines are not safe. FALSE. Vaccines are extremely safe. Adverse reactions do rarely occur, however this risk of vaccination is less than the risk of the disease to be prevented. The most common adverse reaction is pain and swelling at the vaccine site. This may be treated with Tylenol and causes no long-term harm to your baby. Allergic reactions occur rarely, however to put this in perspective, other commonly used medicines, foods and insect bites are much more likely to cause a severe reaction.
Myth # 3 – Infants are too young to get vaccinated. FALSE. Vaccines prevent diseases that are most dangerous in the first year of life. Pertussis, for example, is a common cause of chronic cough in adults, but may cause life-threatening whooping cough in an infant.
Myth # 4 – Vaccines can cause the disease they prevent. This is mostly FALSE! Most vaccines are made with only pieces of infectious viruses and therefore can’t cause disease. The MMR and chicken pox vaccines contain greatly weakened viruses that rarely cause any symptoms.
Myth # 5 – Vaccines confuse or overwhelm the immune system. FALSE. Babies have an amazing ability to mount an appropriate immune response to immunizations. Billions of immune cells respond to millions of different germs in your child every day. A vaccine is a drop in the bucket when compared to the total work load of your child’s immune system.
Myth # 6 – Vaccines cause autism. FALSE. Original studies that suggested vaccines may cause autism were flawed. The error was one of guilt-by-association. Imagine walking into a bank, you are minding your own business until a guy at the next counter robs the teller. The cops arrest YOU also, because you were in the bank at the time of the robbery. WRONG. Children diagnosed with autism often have had vaccines recently… but so has everyone without autism. And autism is typically diagnosed at 1-2 years of life shortly after vaccines are given.
Myth # 7 – Mercury in vaccines may cause brain damage. FALSE. There is no evidence that the minute amount of mercury in thimerasol, a vaccine preservative, can cause any harm to your child.
Myth # 8 – Vaccines are a “cash machine” for drug companies. FALSE. Vaccine production is one of the most regulated and scrutinized processes in medicine, reimbursement rates are low and production costs are high. I can’t speak for the entire industry, however it seems that this would be a poor choice for investment, if money were the only object. Doctors, scientists and regulators will continue to face hard questions from vaccine skeptics and this is good. Current research supports the continued use of vaccines and so do I!