Top 6 Vaccination Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Top 6 Vaccination Myths You Need to Stop Believing

No, immunizations aren't linked to autism.

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By Rachael Anderson, updated by Rose Hayes and Taylor Lupo

In 2013, 87 percent of pediatricians encountered parents who refused vaccinations for their children, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is up from 75 percent in 2006.

Parents declined or postponed vaccinations for two main reasons, according to the study. Those who declined believed the vaccines were unnecessary. Those who delayed did so to prevent their child from being uncomfortable, or because they incorrectly believed multiple vaccines would overwhelm his or her immune system.

But doctors want parents to know that staying up to date with your child’s immunizations is an important part of keeping kids—and their peers—safe from life-threatening infectious diseases.

Get the facts about five common vaccination myths.

Myth #1: Vaccines cause autism

2 / 7 Myth #1: Vaccines cause autism

Large studies looking at all of the evidence haven’t found a vaccine-autism link.

In 1998, former doctor Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent study in The Lancet linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. The study was widely discredited, retracted from publication and Wakefield was barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom.

Since then, numerous studies from major organizations, including the World Health Organization, have shown that childhood vaccines are safe. In fact, a February 2017 study published in Nature suggests brain changes related to autism begin in early infancy. Since those brain changes take place before the MMR vaccine is even given, the vaccine cannot be to blame.

Myth #2: Childhood vaccines contain mercury (thimerosal)

3 / 7 Myth #2: Childhood vaccines contain mercury (thimerosal)

As of 2001, childhood vaccines no longer contain thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Thimerosal had been used to prevent the buildup of dangerous bacteria in vaccine vials. Other than potential redness at the injection site or, rarely, allergic reactions, there’s no evidence that thimerosal caused harm, even before it was removed.

It isn't the same risky kind of mercury found in certain fish (methylmercury) and it has absolutely no link to autism. In fact, thimerosal was never even in the MMR vaccine, which was the focus of Wakefield’s debunked autism study.

Today, the flu shot is the only vaccine available to kids that could contain thimerosal, but not all versions have it.

Myth #3: Vaccines aren’t necessary

4 / 7 Myth #3: Vaccines aren’t necessary

Vaccines prevent between two and three million deaths around the world every year, according to the World Health Organization. In addition to helping the body build up resistance to potentially fatal infectious diseases, they make a person less likely to pass those illnesses to someone else.

Unvaccinated children and adults can spread disease to those who are too young or too medically fragile to be immunized, breaking down herd immunity. That means missing even one shot could not only endanger a person’s life, but the lives of others around them.

Myth #4: Vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

5 / 7 Myth #4: Vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

In 2003, the Institute of Medicine looked at the relationship between SIDS and the vaccines DTwP, DTaP, HepB and polio, as well as specific combinations of vaccines. During the review they found no association between immunizations and childhood deaths. Subsequent studies haven’t found a link, either.

It’s possible the myth started as a result of pure coincidence; most cases of SIDS occur in infants younger than 12 months, and by that point a child could have as many as 15 vaccinations.

Myth #5: It’s not safe to give multiple childhood vaccines at one time

6 / 7 Myth #5: It’s not safe to give multiple childhood vaccines at one time

Evidence shows that’s not the case. Both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids receive several routine vaccines at once, as long as they have a healthy immune system.

A 2018 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests the delivery of multiple vaccinations does not negatively affect an infant’s immune system. The study assessed hospital visits of 944 children between the ages of 24 and 47 months who had received recommended vaccinations during their first 23 months. The research suggested that those early vaccinations did not lead to an increased risk of getting infections unrelated to the vaccines (such as respiratory or gastrointestinal infections).

Giving a child simultaneous vaccines, as well as combined vaccines, has its advantages, including fewer trips to the doctor’s office and a higher likelihood of completing recommended vaccines on schedule.

Myth #6: Only kids need vaccines

7 / 7 Myth #6: Only kids need vaccines

If you thought vaccines were only for little ones, think again. Experts estimate more US adults die of vaccine-preventable diseases than from prostate cancer or car accidents. Here’s a rundown of the vaccines you may need as an adult:

  • Influenza: The flu shot is recommended for people six months and older.
  • Tdap: Adults need one shot of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine (Tdap), followed by a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.
  • Zoster: The shingles vaccine is now recommended for adults 50 years and older
  • Pneumococcal: The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for adults 65 and older, and earlier for people with certain risk factors.

Certain adults may also need vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis, chickenpox, human papilloma virus (HPV) and other conditions. Talk with your doctor about which adult vaccines you may need.

The bottom line: Vaccines save lives.

This article was updated on November 30, 2017.

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines are commonly given to children in the form of a shot to help prevent serious diseases like measles and mumps. Vaccines are developed using either dead strains of a disease, weakened strains, or strains of a different dise...

ase. As adults, we receive flu vaccines or may need a booster of childhood vaccines to retain immunity. Travelers may receive vaccines either as a condition of entry to a country, or on recommendation of health officials. Generally there is little or no reaction to a vaccine, but in some cases the vaccine may cause an allergic reaction or a temporary, mild illness. Some vaccines are not safe for pregnant women, so it’s important to check with a healthcare professional.