Vaccines: The Myths and the Facts
This article appears in the spring 2019 issue of our Pulse member newsletters.
It’s such an important message, we’re also sending it in its entirety to our agents and employer group contacts.
From boosting your yearly flu immunity to ending deadly diseases around the world, vaccines have changed the face of modern health care for the better and have saved millions of lives. With this proven track record, why are there still debates around their use? Media hype and misinformation may be to blame. Below are common myths and facts to help understand why vaccines are important to your health.
Myth 1: Vaccines cause autism (MMR and autism)
Fact: In a 2015 study of more than 95,000 children, no link was found between having the MMR vaccine and developing autism.
Furthermore, there was no link for children with a sibling with autism.1
Myth 2: Vaccines are not safe
Fact: Vaccines are studied in thousands of people both before approval for routine use and for years later.
- The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system is a national database that tracks concerns about any vaccine. It monitors rare problems with vaccines in 200 categories of illnesses, deaths, emergency room visits or hospitalizations in millions of people. If any safety concerns are identified, health care professionals can quickly change recommendations.
Myth 3: If I don’t get a vaccine, I’m only risking my own health
Fact: Vaccines work best when everyone around you gets them.
If you don’t get sick or are immune to a disease, then those who can’t be vaccinated or are at high risk for an illness will get some protection.
- Each year, the chickenpox vaccine prevents about 3.5 million cases in the U.S. and is almost 100 percent effective at preventing severe cases.3
- In 2016-2017, flu vaccines prevented about 5.3 million flu illnesses, 2.6 million flu-related medical visits, and 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
- A recent study showed when young people got flu shots, older people in the same community were less likely to get the flu. That is important because older people are more likely to experience worse symptoms of the flu.2
Myth 4: We are giving too many shots
Fact: Vaccines are different than they used to be.
In 1960, there were just three vaccines — smallpox, polio and DTP. Those vaccines had more than 3,200 antigens. (Antigens are anything foreign to the body’s immune system.) Today, there are 25 times fewer antigens in the entire series of vaccines. In other words, while there are more vaccines given today, they have fewer antigens.
Myth 5: It’s better to ward off diseases by getting one naturally
Fact: Natural infection is associated with many risks, including: death, hospitalizations, severe disability including brain damage, hearing loss, birth defects, loss of limbs, sterility, etc.
- JamaNetwork.com, “Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among U.S. Children with Older Sibling with and without Autism,” (accessed December 17, 2018), available at JamaNetwork.com.
- Vaccines.gov, “Vaccines Protect Your Community,” (accessed December 18, 2018), available at vaccines.gov.
- CDC.gov, “Chickenpox Vaccine Saves Lives and Prevents Serious Illness,” (accessed December 18, 2018), available at cdc.gov.