Parents nowadays are reading lots about vaccinations—some of it factual and some less so. This week I thought I’d take my best shot at doing some myth-busting when it comes to separating vaccine fact from vaccine fiction.
Before I start, I do want to remind everyone of the fact that vaccines help prevent many serious infectious diseases and save lives.
Yet many parents are concerned because they’ve heard that a child’s immune system will be weaker if they get vaccinated. This is not true. Many studies show that the body’s immune system stays strong after a vaccine and can rev up to keep your child healthy if the germ we have vaccinated your child against invades their body. In addition, being vaccinated to one disease does not weaken your child’s ability to respond to another disease.
Another myth is that a child will get the disease from a vaccine that is supposed to prevent that disease. If the vaccine is made with killed parts of the germ we are trying to protect your child from, then it is impossible for your child to get the disease. If it is made from a weakened or mild live form of a virus like the chicken pox or measles vaccine, then it’s extremely rare to get the disease. If your child contracts the disease after being vaccinated and your child’s immune system is otherwise normal, it will be a very mild form of the illness and not come with the severity of symptoms that might occur if your child got the disease and was not vaccinated against it.
Some parents feel they need not vaccinate their child since their children are healthy and since others are vaccinated in the community – the idea being those who are vaccinated will protect those who are unvaccinated. This is not true. Each child who goes unvaccinated increases the chance that a life-threatening germ will be able to spread in the community, especially to older children and adults vaccinated years ago who can then further spread the illness throughout the community. This is what happened even last year when there were whooping cough outbreaks around the country, including in Vermont.
Finally there is the ongoing myth that vaccines cause autism. This has been disproven time and time again in numerous excellent scientific studies. There is no evidence linking vaccines to autism.
Hopefully tips like this will “de-myth-tify” vaccines so you have a better understanding of why vaccinations are one of the most important things you can do to keep your children healthy.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the UVM College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids