Authored by Revere Health

8 Common Myths About Vaccines

March 7, 2018 | Family Medicine

Why treat a disease when you can prevent it from developing in the first place? That’s the purpose of vaccines, which now help prevent many diseases that used to be common—like polio, measles, mumps, tetanus and others.

Unfortunately, several myths have circulated in the last few decades about the efficacy of vaccines for children and the risks of vaccines. But before addressing those myths, it’s important to understand why vaccines are important.

Why Vaccines Are Important

Vaccines provide an opportunity for the body to develop an immunity to and prevent certain diseases. Everyone is born with an immune system, which detects foreign invaders (called antigens) and produces proteins known as antibodies to fight them off.

This is a process that happens over time, however. The first time the immune system is exposed to a specific invader, it produces antibodies for protection—but usually not quick enough to prevent the sickness first. But once the immune system has produced an antibody, it always remembers it. This means if that same invader tries to enter the body again, even years later, the body will be able to produce those antibodies more quickly and fight it off before causing sickness.

Vaccines aim to accomplish this same process but without causing you to be sick first. Vaccines contain parts of the foreign invaders that lead to disease, but they are either killed or weakened to create the vaccine so that they don’t cause serious sickness. Instead, they simply stimulate the immune system to produce the proper antibodies for that illness. So, rather than exposing your child to polio so they can gain an immunity to it, you can vaccinate your child for the same protection during their back-to-school vaccines.

8 Vaccine Myths Debunked

  1. Natural immunity is better than immunity acquired by a vaccine: Sometimes, a natural immunity can be stronger than the kind of immunity you develop through the help of a vaccine. But relying on this method of immunity is risky long term, and the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks associated with illness. Your risk of a severe reaction to a vaccine is exponentially lower than the risk of death or complications caused by the conditions vaccines help prevent.
  2. Vaccines aren’t safe: While toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, mercury and aluminum are indeed used in FDA-approved vaccines, only microscopic trace amounts are found—nowhere near enough to cause damage. Per the FDA and CDC, the human body actually produces more formaldehyde naturally than you find in vaccines.
  3. Vaccines aren’t worth it: You’d be hard-pressed to find even a single reputable story that links vaccines with long-term health conditions. Cases of deaths from allergic reactions or severe side effects are incredibly limited, and allergic reactions to vaccines occur in about one case per every one or two million injections.
  4. My child will get the disease I’m trying to prevent: While vaccines can lead to mild symptoms, it does not mean your child is infected. An actual infection takes place in under one case per million.
  5. My child will get autism: A 1997 study instigated common fears about vaccines causing autism, but this study has been completely disproven and the author lost his medical license as a result. Further studies have found no links whatsoever between vaccines and autism.
  6. Vaccines aren’t responsible for decreasing infections: Although hygiene and sanitation play a role in decreased rates of infections, vaccines also play an important role. It’s easily possible to separate the effects of hygiene and vaccines, and when researchers have done this, clear evidence points to the efficacy of vaccines.
  7. “Herd immunity” is just as effective as getting vaccinated: The idea of herd immunity means as long as a large enough percentage of the population is immunized, even those who aren’t won’t be at any risk. While this can be true, too many people buying into the idea and failing to vaccinate can open up danger. In addition, factors like international travel can put non-immunized people at risk.
  8. The infant immune system is too weak for vaccinations: We naturally assume that infants have weaker immune systems as they develop, but they’re stronger than you may realize. In theory, a baby’s immune system could respond to around 10,000 vaccines all at the same time—there are only 14 scheduled vaccines possible, so reaching this limit is completely impossible.

Your doctor can offer further recommendations when it comes to vaccines and can set straight any other myths that might still be out there.

I practice the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. I also perform colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries we do, my practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although I enjoy all aspects of family medicine.


“Vaccine Myths Debunked.”

“Why Are Childhood Vaccines So Important?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.