Busted! Top 3 Myths About Vaccines
In a previous blog post, I talked about a recent study describing the characteristics of physicians who refused to care for families who declined vaccines for their children. I talked about how I suspected it was about something much deeper than just misinformation, or misconception. But I also promised that I would make some of the info available here in case there was anyone who really didn’t know whether to believe the hype about vaccines and autism, and who was seeking to educate themselves in order to make a good decision for their child.
Here are the 3 most common reasons why people refuse vaccines, explained.
If these infections were so serious, why don’t we hear more about them?
So polio causes a really bad disease called poliomyelitis. In the 80s, hundreds of thousands of children across the world were left paralyzed by its effects. Then a world-wide vaccination program was implemented, and 15 years later, rates of poliomyelitis were down 99.9%, and the disease was completely eradicated from the Western Hemisphere, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. That’s why we never hear about it anymore. Because we managed to eradicate a devastating disease from a large part of the world. Through vaccination.
Vaccines contain mercury (thimerosal) and that causes autism.
This association has not been shown. The study that described the association was retracted, because the guy who wrote it made up the results. They are no more valid than me saying right now that the MMR vaccines causes the apples on my apple tree to rot. I just made that up. I don’t even have an apple tree. This was a really, really bad case of research misconduct. There have been countless studies since then that have not supported the association between MMR and autism. The Institute of Medicine rejected the causal relationship in 2004.
Moreover, with the exception of certain flu shot formulations, no vaccines in the US or Canada have contained thimerosal in almost 20 years. And even if they did, thimerosal isn’t considered a dangerous form of mercury. The kind of mercury that can cause health problems is most commonly found in fish. So if you want to protect your children, ditch the tuna sandwich, not the flu shot. (PS – most single-dose flu shots and nasal flu mist don’t contain thimerosal.)
I had chicken pox and it wasn’t that bad.
Me too. Aside from some unfortunate family photos, I didn’t suffer any lasting consequences. But that’s because I was a healthy 5 year old with an intact immune system. Pregnant women, adults, babies, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems can die from chicken pox and other vaccine-preventable illnesses, and are much more likely to wind up in the hospital from complications. Since these diseases are so highly contagious, unvaccinated children pose a major health threat to these more vulnerable populations.
Bellyblog’s media producer Dr. Seema Marwaha made this video that also might help explain some of these misconceptions.