Vaccine myths, since 2011, there has been an increase in the misconceptions of parents and their belief of one or the other myths regarding vaccination and its side effects has been on a continuous ascent since then. Because of this, it has been observed that parents are more inclined towards missing out their child’s compulsory vaccination shots and the subsequent booster shots which follow.
It has also been seen that because of the retracting trend from vaccine administration certain diseases such as Mumps and Measles have seen an increase in the registered, as well as, hospitalization cases.
Are Vaccine Safe? How It Began
Andrew Wakefield, a controversial medical researcher, came into spotlight during early 2011 when The Lancet retracted an article published by Dr. AJ Wakefield and his colleagues, published on 28 February 1998. The study titled, “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children” targeted the mumps, measles, rubella, and pneumonia vaccine to cause measles, otitis media, autism, psychosis, and encephalitis.
According to the study, 12 children were observed in a particular pediatric unit for various infections. These children showed normal signs of development and were leading a healthy life prior to vaccination, the study concluded, while also stressing upon the point that vaccinations are causing more harm than good.
In 2011, it was highlighted that vaccines have nothing to do with the diseases which the paper allegedly pinned to them. Moreover, it was discovered that Andrew Wakefield had falsified the data deliberately, so that vaccine manufacturers can be sued.
After the trial, British Medical authorities who overlook the conduct of medical professionals barred Andrew Wakefield from practicing medicine within the premises of England. The menace which started as a result of this article carrying falsified data may be retracted but the myths and misconceptions which were perpetuated into the minds of the individuals are still present and it is hard to nullify that effect in a short period of time.
Following are some of the most prevalent myths along with the scientific data which helps clarify the seriousness of the myth in terms of causing the effects on the vaccinee which it claims to have.
Vaccine Myths 1 – Vaccines Impart Autism
Because of the stunt carried out by Andrew Wakefield, this myth had more attention than any other myth collectively so far. This led to the most efforts in the research community targeting and trying to debunk this myth for almost a decade.
According to Liza Gross’s study published in Public Library of Sciences – Biology, there have been many types of research done in order to find a link which was missing from the chain which connected the development of autism to vaccines.
The myth was fueled by a small, flawed study in The Lancet in 1998, which was later retracted. British medical authorities in 2010 found the author guilty of serious misconduct related to the study — including accepting more than $675,000 from a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers — and banned him from practicing medicine in England.
On the other hand, the backlash from other major medical and life sciences journals was also severe. British Medical Journal did not refrain from mentioning their point of view and in one of the editorials they went on to call the study of Andrew Wakefield “an elaborate fraud.”
The Supreme Court, in 2011, gave the ruling against almost 5000 petitioning families in various cases who had sued vaccine manufacturing and distributing companies for the dangerous vaccines which contributed to autism in their children.
In 2014, an elaborate study was published in Pediatrics discussing the safety of most of the vaccines which are currently in use all across U.S. for regular immunizations. Margaret A. Maglione and co-authors, suggested that while there were some rare cases where the administration of a particular vaccine led to severe effects but the rate of occurrence of such incidences is very rare and in the media or any publication the positive effects of the vaccines must also be defined in detail so that the general public is able to consider the rare incidence of such events to happen.
A Master of Arts in Communication student at The University of Texas at Arlington, Kamim Vinton, describes the fear of autism in the general public as the butterfly effect of falsified science, according to her thesis.
The author further puts emphasis on the mechanism of learning while under the influence of fear in which case the human beings tend to develop beliefs which are irrational. If the reports in the news tell the people about how autism is a risk towards the health of their child then they are most likely to skip vaccinations and refuse them. The level of fear which is exhibited in the reporting language of media has a direct effect on the generation of fear in the minds of people.
The thing about myths is that they are easy to float but many folds difficult to curb them and the domino effect which they create. The fear develops and takes a seat in the mindset of people and how they look at vaccines. This mindset is hard to change even with the reliable and supporting data as people are not readily accepting any proofs on an agent which has direct consequences on their health.
Vaccine Myths 2 – Vaccines Are Dangerous
This myth primarily revolves around the preservatives and adjuvants present in the protein which are made from or derivatives of certain allegedly harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, aluminum, and mercury.
The amount of formaldehyde present in a vaccine is low as compared to what the myths have to say. The trace amount present in the vaccine is much lower than what is present normally in the bodies of infants.
According to scientists, the things which we come across on day to day basis contain a certain amount of aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde and if someone thinks that even the trace amounts of all these chemicals are hazardous for them then they may as well move to another planet. Human bodies, normally have a certain amount of these chemicals circulating in them which is sourced from certain food sources.
Salts of aluminum constitute the adjuvants which are an essential component of the vaccines. Adjuvants are added in certain trace quantities in order to increase the efficacy span of the vaccine over a period of time hence enhancing the stimulation of immune system consistently at longer time spans.
In the case of infants, the breast milk serves as the source of aluminum and has more concentration of aluminum derivatives than are found normally in vaccines. the quantity of aluminum which is internalized by an infant in first six months of their life varies from the type of diet they are on with the soy-based formula at the top of the list. An infant who is fed on the soy-based formula in place of breast milk is likely to internalize 120 mg of aluminum in their bodies.
Aluminum is also a major ingredient in the yeast infused flour commonly in use by the bakers all across the globe. Apart from this, if the quantity of aluminum in the recommended vaccines of an infant is calculated it sums up to a mere 4 mg which is quite less than other sources which we have discussed earlier.
A prime constituent of thimerosal is ethyl mercury. Thimerosal is the first of the many additives which have been under criticism from the anti-vaccine activists for its alleged role in the incidence and progression of autism in children.
Because of these concerns, since 2001, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued orders in order to prevent the addition of thimerosal in the vaccines as a preservative. If the modern-day vaccines which are currently being used in the market are concerned, then one vaccine only contains thimerosal which is a kind of shot against Flu.
In earlier times, thimerosal has been used as a preservative since it prevents the growth of any fungi or bacteria in the vials of the vaccine. It has also been noted, based on the studies that human bodies have the tendency to naturally eliminate the byproducts of thimerosal. If the concerns of the parents continue to exist, then they have the right to ask for the thimerosal-free version of the same flu shot.
It has been an assumption and a myth for many years that vaccines contain methyl mercury which has the potential to cause substantial brain damage. The vaccines do not contain the hazardous methyl mercury rather it contains the harmless derivative which is ethyl mercury in the form of thimerosal. Ethyl mercury can be easily broken down by the human excretory system and then passed out of the body.
It is essential to understand the difference between both derivatives. While the difference may appear to be very less on the basis of their names, both have serious differences in the kind of threats which are posed to the overall health of the vaccinee According to Jennifer Gunter, an obstetrician-gynecologist, the difference in methyl and ethyl mercury is similar to the difference between methyl and ethyl alcohol.
Vaccine Myths 3 – There Is Such A Thing As Too Many Vaccines For The Immune System
According to this myth, if children are administered many vaccines at an early age then it is possible that their immune system becomes weak and does not develop properly. But it has nothing to do with the incidences of autism, according to two studies.
The concept which is utilized to create modern vaccines is a new one as compared to the concept behind the manufacturing of vaccines in the early days of vaccination. In the past, manufacturing required the whole germ to be present in the vaccine for the stimulation of the immune system. In the modern vaccines, although there are almost 14 viral and bacterial diseases against which the vaccines provide immunity but the concentration of the immunity imparting proteins is far less than what it used to be in the old days.
Having said this, it can be established that the immune system of children, nowadays, faces less stress from vaccines as they contain fewer factors to stimulate the system as compared to the old days. this also implies that the people who are from older generations used to face more pressure on their immune system from the vaccines as compared to the vaccinees today. As far as pneumococcal shots are concerned, the importance of pneumonia booster dose cannot be denied based on trivial misconceptions.
If the example of a very common vaccine mastered for immunization against whooping cough is considered it has changed majorly over the period of time in terms of the concentration of immune system stimulating particles, decreasing from a wide variety of 3000 types to a mere five types.
Also, there is the prevalence of misconception regarding the fragile nature of an immune system. During the birth of the baby, it has to encounter a number of bacteria on its way through the birth canal. From the very first day, the immune system of a baby is trained in such a way so that it is able to tackle numerous different types of invading organisms and proves to be effective in tackling them to a great extent.
Vaccine Myths 4 – Missing Vaccine Shots Is Cool
Most of the parents skip the vaccine shots because of the apparent pain and suffering which their child has to go through. In order to avoid the apparent suffering and to save the child from the unnecessary pain, it is considered by the parents that it is okay to avoid multiple shots of different vaccines at the same time. According to experts, the delay between the shots is a more painful and stress causing phenomenon for the child than subsequent shots in one go.
It is seen that the hormones which are released as a result of stress; peak in the circulation of the children after the first shot and it remains elevated whether another shot is given to the children or not. If parents try to lessen the stress caused by the administration of only one shot per month then they may be unknowingly causing more stress to their child as compared to if all the shots are subjected simultaneously.
CDC has developed a pneumococcal vaccine frequency schedule for vaccination keeping in view the risk ages and the urgency to vaccinate the infants. If the parents deliberately cause a delay in the inoculation of their offspring, then they are putting them at a greater risk. There has been a hype of alternative vaccination schedules which lacks the backing by credible research that are worthy of being considered by CDC to officially accept is a worth practice.
Some doctors from all across the globe are of the opinion that the vaccination shots can be delayed in order to allow the immune system to bear with the excessive pressure that is inflicted by the inoculation of the vaccine. But, in reality, it is not the case, there is no such thing as a safe gap before the inoculation of the next vaccine since the more days are passed without the child being vaccinated against a specific disease the more risk of getting infected by it prevails.
Vaccine Myths 5 – Too Many Side Effects Are Associated With Vaccines
Testing of the vaccines ensures their safety before they are rolled out into the market as something that is certified for use. The safety tests carried out on various vaccines so far ensures that majority of the vaccines are safe. For the peace of mind, it is much easier to understand the safety of the vaccine in these terms that vaccines are tested more rigorously than any other drug for their safety.
A study of 30,000 women was conducted with the inoculation of Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine before it was certified as safe for immunization. Same is the case with the pneumococcal vaccine which has been tested in almost 40,000 children before it was rolled out for the immunization of the masses. There are currently two types of rotavirus vaccines available in the market. Both of these vaccines were tested in estimated 0.13 million children for almost 2 decades before they were approved for inoculation.
It is necessary for the company manufacturing the vaccine to provide necessary certifications to the FDA regarding the safety of their new vaccine and its non-reactivity towards other vaccines which are inoculated simultaneously. Only after this approval, the FDA allows further testing of the vaccine in test groups. CDC also manages a database known as Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in order to record and monitor in real time a specific or all the adverse reactions which may occur as a result of the failure of a vaccine.
VAERS is accessible to the general public and literally, anyone having an access to internet can file a report in VAERS. So far, the adverse effects reported in the system database were not because of the vaccine directly rather they happened because of the coincidences.
Autism was also reported in the VAERS system when the autism myth was at its peak. Later it turned out that 4/5 of the reports of autism were made by the lawyers who had cases based upon personal injury and they were filing for their individual benefits which they may get if the case goes to trial.
Even in the presence and working of the above-mentioned safety features, the vaccine manufacturers are very thorough about mentioning all the possible side effects on the label of the vaccines so that vaccinee is well aware of the possible side effects.
Vaccine Myths 6 –Diseases Can Be Cured Without Vaccines
Vaccines are a victim of their own success. They have nearly eliminated diseases that once sickened, disabled or killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Few young parents have encountered any of these diseases in the modern day which has eliminated the realization among masses of the potential of these diseases to cause a public health concern.
There was a time when whooping cough alone had the potential to cause death of almost 7000 children and make another 0.3 million sick. These figures have decreased greatly in the modern world where vaccines are prevalent and herd immunity has driven these diseases to the verge of eradication completely. These figures may cause the misconception in the minds of the people that the diseases for which vaccines are available such as a whooping cough is not dangerous at all and can be easily overcome by the untrained immune system of any person.
Vaccine Myths 7: Only Sick People Need Flu Shots And Other Vaccines
People with compromised immune systems such as people suffering from long-term diseases and cancer patients are specifically advised to get vaccinated for the most probable diseases since they are at a greater risk. But, this does not mean, in any way, that only weak and immunocompromised patients should only get vaccinated.
If the healthy people who live in a community are vaccinated then they are in a way contributing towards the health of the community because by getting vaccinated they are eliminating themselves as the source of spread of a disease.
In the case of infants, they cannot get vaccinated right away after being born. It is advised to wait for almost two months for the immune system of the baby to establish and mature itself before immunization can begin. In the case of pneumonia vaccine to be used to immunize infants, optimal pneumonia vaccine age is two months or old. During those first two months, the babies are most vulnerable to getting infected and that is the time when herd immunity of the people who are healthy but immunized can help minimize the incidence of several diseases in the unvaccinated infants.
Vaccine Myths 8: Vaccinated Children Can Shed Virus And Infect Others
The only vaccine which used to contain live viruses was the polio vaccine. It was offered in the liquid form so that it can be taken orally. The live polio vaccine was the only one of its kind which had the ability to make the vaccinee shed live viruses in their feces.
Doctors commented on this phenomenon back then calling it indirect immunization where if the vaccinated child spreads the virus it will result in the immunization of all those kids as well. The live polio vaccine was introduced back in the 1950s when the United States of America as a whole suffered from the menace of polio. The eradication of polio from U.S. was completed by the year 2009. After the achievement of eradication of the disease, FDA banned the use of live virus in the vaccines since it causes potential harms to the community which was more than its benefits. The polio vaccine which is in use nowadays contains the killed viruses.
Same is applicable to all the other types of vaccines including mumps, measles, flu and bacterial or viral pneumonia. The person vaccinated against these diseases cannot spread the infection rather it is the symptomatic patients who have not been vaccinated act as the culprits for the spread of the disease to the others, according to CDC.
Overall, it is a difficult and strenuous task to explain a myth to the people who firmly believe in that. While some people accept the explanations readily, others tend to believe in it even more with every detail which is directed towards them. At this stage, the preventable diseases are on a rise yet again because of the negligence of the parents who prevent their kids from getting vaccinated and hence put them in the harm’s way deliberately.