Unsure About Vaccines? 5 ‘Scary’ Myths Unraveled

October 17, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Eric Weber, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.

Melissa C Wallach, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.

By Sabrina Scarpa

For decades, conversations between people who are pro- and anti-vaccination have stirred controversy in the media—making it hard to know what to believe. While recognizing that everyone is entitled to their own view on the subject matter, it is essential to discuss why vaccinations are necessary and clarify existing misinformation about them.

Here we discuss common misbeliefs about vaccinations and provide factual evidence that helps explain myths you may have heard throughout the years.

Myth 1: My child is receiving too many vaccines at once.

Truth: The schedule for receiving vaccines was carefully created—it ensures your child is protected from infectious diseases as soon as possible. The longer you postpone receiving the first round of vaccinations, the higher risk your child is put in. Overall, the risk of getting sick from a vaccine is extremely low, and much less harmful than contracting the actual disease itself.

It’s also important to remember that your child isn’t fully protected after the first dose of a vaccine, notes Eric F. Weber, M.D., a board certified pediatrician and director of the Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Pediatric Academic Practice. “The series must be completed on time for it to work effectively.”

Myth 2: If I’m not vaccinated, my immune system will be strengthened naturally.

Truth: It is true that natural immunity tends to be stronger than vaccine-acquired immunity. However, risking exposure to a vaccine-preventable disease, such as measles, mumps and chickenpox, is more dangerous than receiving the vaccine. One to three out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.

Myth 3: Vaccines are linked to other health issues—namely Autism.

Truth: This is one of the oldest claims made by people that are anti-vaccination, but to be clear, autism and vaccinations are not linked. So, where did this claim come from? In 1998, a study was published in The Lancet by a physician that had a conflict of interest and approved these false claims. The Lancet then retracted the article in 2010 and stated that what Dr. Wakefield wrote was “incorrect and contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.” This myth continues to be debunked by large-scale scientific studies. The latest study, published in March 2019, examined more than 650,000 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010, and found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Myth 4: The government can force my family to get vaccinated, no matter what.

Truth: Vaccine requirements are created and enforced state by state. In New Jersey, children are required to receive a list of vaccinations in order to attend school and child care facilities. This is also the case for colleges and most workplaces. However, the government makes exemptions for religious, medical and philosophical reasons. It is important to note that if you are exempt from receiving required immunizations, you are leaving yourself and other unvaccinated people at risk for otherwise preventable illnesses.

Myth 5: Other parents in my area haven’t vaccinated their children either, so I don’t have to either.

Truth: Regardless of what everyone else does, it should be your decision whether or not to have your children vaccinated.

“Because unvaccinated people tend to live within the same communities, when one person is exposed to measles or varicella and makes contact with someone else, the threat grows within the entire community,” says Melissa Wallach, M.D., a board certified pediatrician and internal medicine physician. “To prevent these situations and stop the spread of disease, it’s in your best interest to get vaccinated.”

Still trying to decide if getting vaccinated is right for you and your family?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • All vaccines are approved by the FDA before being distributed to the public.
  • The rate of vaccine-preventable disease has significantly dropped because immunization practices are standard throughout the United States.
  • Be selective when choosing credible sources to get your vaccine information from.
  • Talk to your pediatrician or primary care physician about the risks of getting vaccinated and not getting vaccinated. Express your concerns early on and be willing to listen to their professional advice.

If you come across someone with similar myths as those listed above, reference them to this article, or educate them with the information you’ve learned. And lastly, remember to set a good example.

  1. Stop the spread of misinformation.
  1. Educate unvaccinated people you know with appropriate information.
  1. Take action together to protect the community from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Although vaccinations are necessary to prevent severe illness and the spread of diseaseyou should always consult with your doctor about the risks.

Dr. Wallach is located at our pediatric offices in Neptune and Asbury Park. Please call 732-455-8559 to make an appointment for your child at her office in Neptune or 732-774-0262 for the office in Asbury Park. Dr. Weber is located at our pediatric academic practice in Hackensack. Please call 551-996-9160 to make an appointment with Dr. Weber or one of the resident physicians.

Vaccinations can be performed by a pediatrician or primary care physician. Need a doctor? Visit HMHMedicalGroup.org or call 1-888-464-3627.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
NJ Department of Health
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)