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According to the CDC, vaccinations have prevented over 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children in the last 20 years. In spite of that astounding statistic, a recent study from the University of Michigan found that 93% of pediatricians had at least one parent who refused a vaccination for their child during the past year.

The effects of this are all too well known. As recently as December of 2014, we saw an outbreak of Measles that affected over a hundred children as a result of unvaccinated children and adults. All of which could have been avoided with proper preventative care.

Unfortunately, there are many myths about vaccines that encourage or frighten parents into not vaccinating their children, and as a result, infections can easily spread among the unvaccinated. I want to take a few minutes to share some of the most commons myths about childhood vaccines and talk about the facts.

 

Myth: Vaccines are unsafe and can cause Autism/Diabetes/Cancer/Flu/HIV and a host of other conditions.

Fact: Vaccinations are safe and effective.

They’ve been put through large-scale clinical trials and tested for safety by scientists, doctors and other healthcare professionals. Although no vaccine is 100% safe, you need to think about the risk of the disease against the risk of the vaccine.

Think about measles as a good example. One in 30 children who catch measles will get pneumonia. For every 1,000 children with measles-related pneumonia, one or two will die. But because of the measles vaccine, few children today get the measles to begin with.  The association of vaccines (measles) with autism has been disproven.

 

Myth: Getting so many vaccines will overwhelm my child’s immune system.

Fact: While the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) can seem like a lot, it’s perfectly safe for your child and their immune system.

Myth: Immunization is unnatural and natural cures are safer.

Fact: Vaccines use a person’s natural defense to disease to stimulate the immune system. That means that if someone is exposed to that specific disease in the future, their immune system can “remember it” and fight it or, stop the disease developing, or reduce the severity of disease.

When it comes to natural cures, there is no scientific basis to support their use in preventing these preventable infections

 

Myth: Infectious diseases are not serious.

Fact: The infectious diseases that vaccines target can be serious and even fatal.

This myth is a tough one since it’s partially the fault of vaccines working so well in the first place. Since the wide spread use of vaccines, epidemics, outbreaks and the number of cases of contagious diseases has been reduced. Sure, it may seem like infectious diseases aren’t that serious– but polio, which has been largely eradicated through vaccines, caused paralysis; diphtheria made it almost impossible to breathe; and measles causes brain damage. All of these have become extremely rare in the US and other developed countries thanks to vaccinations, but as we saw last year, unvaccinated children can spread the disease and they can make a comeback.

 

Myth: Vaccines cause or spread the diseases they are supposed to prevent.

Fact: The majority of vaccines available are inactivated or prepared from only part of the pathogen. This means the components of the vaccine are not living and therefore do not cause disease.

 

Myth: Vaccines contain toxic ingredients.

Fact: All vaccines marketed in the United States are assessed by the FDA to ensure they meet strict safety guidelines prior to being registered for use. This includes testing for all vaccine components.

 

Myth: You shouldn’t give a vaccine to a child who has a cold.

Fact: Studies show that having a mild illness doesn’t affect a child’s ability to react appropriately to the vaccine.

 

Myth: I had chicken pox when I was a kid and it isn’t a big deal.

Fact: This is because of the vaccine, not in spite of it. Before the vaccine was introduced, many children were hospitalized each year with serious complications, including pneumonia and dangerous skin infections. And children who don’t get chicken pox or the vaccine are at risk of getting it as an adult, which is a much more serious illness.

 

Myth: Vaccines can provide 100% disease protection.

Fact: Not quite. The best vaccines are those made with live weakened virus, such as MMR and chicken pox, which are about 95% effective. The effectiveness of vaccines made with killed, or inactivated, virus is between 75 and 80%. That means there’s a chance you could be vaccinated against a disease and still get it. But, if all children are vaccinated against an organism, it’s less likely to hang around. That’s why vaccinating an entire population is so important.

 

Myth 10: It’s best to wait until children are older before starting to give them vaccines.

Fact: Immunization schedules are designed to protect the most vulnerable patients from disease. If you wait to give the vaccine, you may miss the window when a child is most vulnerable. Delays in immunization give rise to outbreaks of disease with serious consequences.

 

Dr. Larry Wu

About Dr. Larry Wu

Larry Wu MD is a regional medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and provides consultative services for employee health solutions, prevention, chronic disease, care management, medical expense and utilization management. He is a family physician with over 20 years in clinical practice, has served as clinic director in the Indian Health Service, Kaiser Permanente and Duke Family Medicine and currently maintains a part-time clinical practice.

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