Vaccines help protect us from getting ill from preventable diseases from the time we’re born until our final days. Immunization is so important for people of all ages that the entire month of August—also known as National Immunization Awareness Month—is dedicated to raising awareness around vaccines, and encouraging people to make an appointment to get up-to-date on their immunizations in order to protect themselves, their family and their community from diseases such as polio, tetanus, flu, HPV, Hepatitis A and B, whooping cough, measles, mumps and Covid-19.
Immunizations were developed by scientists to help keep the community-at-large healthy. Vaccines work by introducing a weak, or inactive part of an organism, such as a virus, into the body, so that the immune system is “trained” to respond to that organism, which then helps to protect a person from getting sick, or from getting severely sick from that infection.
But in order for vaccines to be effective, lots of people need to get them! And in order for people to get them, they must understand why and how vaccines work, and learn what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to information around vaccines. With that in mind, read on to learn some important myths and facts about immunization. And be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what’s recommended and when for you and your children.
Myth #1: Vaccines don’t protect you 100 percent, so you shouldn’t get vaccinated.
Fact: According to the Vaccine Research Clinic at The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine, the majority of vaccines protect against a disease 85 to 99 percent of the time, making them well worthwhile in reducing risk. Further, when a vaccinated person does get a particular infection, it may be less serious because the vaccine has prepared the immune system.
Myth #2: A vaccine can give you the very illness it vaccinates against.
Fact: A person may experience some side effects from a vaccine. But most vaccines are made from killed portions of a virus, not the live virus, itself, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Some reactions, such as a fever, soreness and fatigue, may follow immunization But those aren’t symptoms of being ill. Rather, they’re evidence that the immune system is hard at work, building immunity to the virus you’re trying to prevent.
Myth #3: Natural immunity is healthier than immunity that comes from vaccines.
Fact: When a vaccine protects you from an illness, you avoid or minimize the damage that would happen to your body if you became ill with the vaccine-preventable disease, itself, according to University of Maryland Medical System. Take the flu, for example. Every year, 140,000 to 710,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu, which results in 12,000 to 52,000 annual deaths, according to the CDC. When you get the flu vaccine, it can help keep you from getting severely ill.
Myth #4: I don’t need to be vaccinated against a rare disease.
Fact: In the last couple of years, we’ve seen firsthand how quickly diseases can spread. What may seem rare can multiply quickly; and many diseases are rare because of vaccines. Michigan Medicine puts it like this: “Due to our ability to travel worldwide, these rare and exotic diseases and illnesses can easily be re-introduced into our communities. By keeping our vaccinations up to date, we can significantly decrease our risk of catching and spreading these diseases.”
Myth #5: It’s unsafe to get more than one vaccine at a time.
Fact: Parents may feel concerned when they first learn of the CDC-approved schedule for childhood and adolescent vaccinations, because there are a number of vaccines given in a relatively short period of time. However, research has shown that receiving multiple vaccines at once is safe. Cleveland Clinic says that because illnesses can spread quickly and easily between children, and can cause serious and lasting health consequences, it’s important to stick with the schedule.
Myth #6: Vaccines cause autism.
Fact: There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. According to the Mayo Clinic, that myth stemmed from a 1998 study, which was later retracted and the author lost his medical license.
Myth #7: If an expert or news program says something about a vaccine, it must be true.
Fact: Nope. These days it can be hard to discern fact from fiction. Even videos that claim to be “news” aren’t myth-proof. When looking up information online, find reliable scientific medical sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), Immunization Action Coalition (immunize.org), along with sites produced by trusted non-profit organizations, hospitals and universities.
In the last couple of years, misinformation has spread quickly about immunization. The bottom line is, vaccines are safe and play an important role in protecting the community from dangerous illnesses. This month, make it a priority to get updated on all of your vaccines and boosters, and do your part in stopping the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.