When we talk about vaccines, we often make certain claims about them: that they are entirely safe, that they work well, that they are perfect, that they are the perfect solution to our fears, fears we have based on years of vaccine scares. But in a very real way, we’re already trying to vaccinate our children with outdated beliefs that don’t just affect vaccines, but vaccines as a whole.
What follow is the most commonly debunked myths about vaccines. We’ll get through them one at a time, so it won’t take you very long to discover what’s wrong with your favorite myths, and where that leads.
While there have been countless vaccinations, vaccines against common childhood diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, are still the mainstay of childhood vaccination programs. Vaccination has changed our collective lives, saving lives by preventing diseases. After vaccines came into existence, we lived healthier lives, and people live longer with much lower morbidity and mortality.
There are hundreds of vaccine myths that threaten our vaccine safety. And I’ve done my fair share of debunking vaccine myths myself over the years. I thought it would be a good idea to assemble these myths, myths that I encounter frequently, and bring them to light.
To make a vaccination claim you must begin with one of the following statements:
- that vaccines are totally safe,
- that vaccines are totally effective,
- that vaccines are a benign, harmless, miraculous phenomenon of our times, or
- That vaccine is a gigantic, publicly funded conspiracy to deprive all of humanity of a totally natural, magical medical process that eradicates disease with the power of technology.
If you have not completed the steps of this paragraph then do not attempt to discredit vaccines. You are a complete idiot, and we should all kick you in the shins.
The vaccines myth is based on myths that vaccines are not dangerous and vaccines do not cause any harm whatsoever. These statements are totally false.
If we put a vaccine that claims to prevent cancer in a child who has never had cancer before, and place it under his tongue before he is vaccinated, and if that vaccine creates cancer, that vaccine is, by definition, cancer causing, regardless of how long it has been used. Any vaccine that contains minute amounts of cancer causing chemicals is cancer causing, regardless of how long it has been used. Any vaccine containing small amounts of highly toxic ingredients is carcinogenic.
The vaccine myth is based on myths that vaccines work for all children, and vaccines are harmless. These statements are also false.
In the 1980s we saw increasing problems with the short duration of vaccine immunizations. Problems with needle transmission and injection-site complications occurred and diseases often were inadvertently injected with disease vaccines, resulting in serious complications that ranged from vaccines causing an abscess to tetanus causing extreme neurotoxicities, causing severe mental retardation.
Most of these health problems were observed at the time of vaccinations. Some of these outbreaks were traced back to poorly made vaccinations being used in California schools. We saw adverse health issues occurring in children of the 1990s, including fevers, cough, convulsions, dehydration, multiple vaccine-associated auto graft disorders (vaccine diseases), injection site reactions, and severe pain.
There were growing reports of adverse reactions to vaccinations that occurred over a very short time frame. Problems with vaccine efficacy were not being adequately evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the FDA, or in the medical literature. The reports of vaccine complications were not being adequately investigated by doctors, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or by the FDA.
There was a growing belief by doctors and experts in the medical profession that the vaccines were not very effective. Doctors, experts and pediatricians thought it was harmful to send children with a life-threatening disease to the doctor for vaccines and to vaccinate them if they did not have the disease already. The public generally believed that vaccines were a cure-all, even if the child with the life-threatening disease had previously been vaccinated for that disease, and even if the child had recently developed other serious diseases.
Vaccine is a Magic Bullet – vaccine myths
Most vaccines do not work the way you might expect. The one that almost guarantees perfect immunity? Vaccines that are in the forms of a vaccine, like the flu vaccine. You can easily avoid catching that flu by getting a flu shot. But most vaccines, especially those for diseases like tetanus or pertussis, or that are not conjugated with other viruses, don’t work like that.
The immune system needs other antibodies to fight the disease. A vaccine must contain a different piece of the virus in order to encourage antibodies to form. So, in order to protect people from these diseases, the vaccine needs to be tested first. The science is still being worked out on whether vaccines like MMR really work like they’re supposed to, and some vaccines, such as HPV vaccines for instance, haven’t been proven completely safe.
For this reason, it’s incredibly important to get immunizations before you’re exposed to the diseases they’re designed to prevent. But if you’re in high school or college, or you’re older, it’s also important that you’re able to opt out of vaccinations to protect your own immune system.
By the way, that makes vaccines from the side effects or risks. Unfortunately, it is rarely relevant in some rare instances of very rare side effects or risks. Such a choice is dangerous. When all vaccines are introduced, there is an overall risk of some risks. As a result, immunizations are often only recommended to certain people in high risk groups (such as newborn babies or older adults). That means that many people get the side effects or risks they don’t want, or they opt out.
Vaccines are Dangerous – vaccine myths
Part of this depends on the vaccine, which can be detrimental to the immune system. For instance, as we’ll see below, the vaccines that were developed before the antibiotic was developed may have profound risks to the immune system. That’s why, when you hear someone say vaccines are dangerous or deadly, it’s important to understand that you’re most likely talking about vaccines designed to prevent illnesses. That doesn’t mean vaccines are dangerous or deadly.
When we think of vaccines causing illness, we often talk about things that are specific to certain vaccines, such as getting a bacterial infection after vaccination with a live vaccine. In most cases though, we’re talking about the diseases they’re designed to prevent: like the chicken pox, whooping cough, or tetanus.
Vaccines protect against diseases.
A vaccination protects against a specific disease. But diseases are so much more complicated. A disease can be very difficult to predict. It might be a disease that people get just once, or it might be one that could be spread. You can only protect your body with vaccines when you know the disease is out there. So vaccines are safer than having the disease out there to potentially infect you.
For this reason, there is less of a risk that vaccines cause illness than those diseases they’re meant to prevent. The risk is likely higher in some cases, but it’s less than the risk you would have, without vaccines, of getting the disease. If someone told you that getting vaccinated was 100% safe, wouldn’t you agree?
Vaccines have never been shown to be harmful.
The studies that show vaccines cause harm that put people at risk, haven’t been scientifically proven. By the way, that means you can’t have the belief that vaccines are harmful and have some sort of evidence to support it.
The only way we know that vaccines are dangerous and harmful is because of things like vaccine injuries. There aren’t any studies showing vaccines cause any harm to people or their health in general. All studies show vaccines are safe.
So the only way you can prove something harmful or harmful is to show someone died or became seriously ill. That’s often the only evidence we have. And there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause harm or death, or that vaccines cause specific injuries like a sore arm or a painful headache.
There are many studies in which people were provided a vaccine. Some people developed a complication. Sometimes it was the vaccine. Sometimes it was some other exposure. Some people took some aspirin or a short course of antibiotics.
And there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause a specific disease.
If someone believes vaccines are harmful and cause specific diseases like autism or arthritis, they have a personal choice to make. But there’s no research that shows vaccines cause specific diseases.
Or if they believe vaccines cause specific injuries, they can choose to believe that. But there’s no evidence for that either.
Vaccines are a Risk Factor
You can believe vaccines are completely safe, completely risk free, and risk reduction. That’s okay. Your decision is personal. You can also believe that vaccines are dangerous, and that vaccines cause specific diseases. That’s a personal belief that is, at best, only possible in the realm of the possible.
It’s not the responsibility of the federal government to force you to vaccinate. But it’s important to know that there are some risks that go along with vaccinations. The risk is that you may end up getting the disease you don’t want, or you may have an injury, or you may have some kind of ill effect or reaction. It’s like sunburn. You can choose not to get sunburn.
What if a person has a personal belief that vaccines cause autism? That’s an opportunity for them to choose a different vaccine that may be less likely to be harmful. There are plenty of vaccines, including the MMR vaccine, that are considered safe and effective, that don’t cause autism. But we’ll never know that for sure.
Even if you’re just deciding whether to vaccinate a child, or whether to vaccinate a child when it’s just a single dose, a risk exists that vaccines will cause harm or illness. You may have been vaccinated against a disease, so you know about the risk. If you’ve never been vaccinated against a disease, you’re really not as aware of the risk. You’re probably not as aware of the risk of getting a disease, like measles.
People can change their minds about vaccination. They don’t always need medical advice. Sometimes they change because they’ve seen a doctor or got an immunization. And sometimes people change their mind because they’ve changed in their personal beliefs.
That’s a personal decision, and you should know that.
Science isn’t against your personal beliefs. Science isn’t fighting for your beliefs.
Science is taking on new research, new studies, new studies that show vaccines are safe. Science is researching whether vaccines cause autism or whether vaccines cause an adverse reaction. Science is researching whether vaccinations cause an illness, a specific disease or a specific injury. Science is addressing myths about vaccines. Science is taking on all of these issues.
You have the ability to decide what vaccines you want to be vaccinated with. It’s your personal choice.
You can decide not to vaccinate.
You can choose to take risks.
And you can make personal decisions, and personal beliefs that are important to you.
The thing is, your beliefs aren’t important. There’s no rule that says your personal beliefs or your personal beliefs about vaccines are inherently more valid. They’re not.
Here’s what is important: Vaccinations work.
There’s no real evidence vaccines cause autism or a specific disease.
Vaccines are generally safe and effective.
Infectious diseases like measles are pretty scary.
Lots of people get a disease like measles or an injury from vaccinations.
Lots of people can have serious, negative reactions to vaccinations.
But it’s your choice. You have the freedom to choose to be vaccinated, to get a vaccine, and to follow your personal beliefs. Vaccinations are in your control. They’re not in the hands of someone else.