10 Vaccination Myths Debunked To Put Your Questions To Rest

Vaccinations do not cause autism. Period.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). The goal of the month is to raise awareness about the importance of protecting yourself from infectious disease — typically done with vaccines — and to highlight the benefits of vaccinations, while separating myths from facts. 

While there is lots research and long-term studies about vaccinations, there is also a lot of misinformation floating around. To help everyone separate fact from fiction, we're debunking some of the common myths.


1. Myth: Vaccinations cause autism.

The myth comes from a now-discredited study from 1997, The Lancet, by Andrew Wakefield, which linked vaccines to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Public Health reports that the paper was discredited because of "serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations."  Wakefield's paper was even retracted from the The Lancet and he lost his medical license. 

Other studies, such as one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceshave since been conducted and found absolutely no link between vaccinations and the onset of autism.  

Though research suggests autism is largely genetic, and signs can be determined as soon as the second trimester of pregnancy, the exact factors that cause it are still unknown.  

2. Myth: All vaccines are 100 percent effective.

Vaccines are incredible and, but not every single one is 100 percent effective. But, to be fair, neither are most treatments. Birth controls pills, for example, aren't 100 percent effective, either.

According to the History of Vaccines, vaccines help individuals' immune systems generate a response when they're exposed to the disease. Because each person is different, they may not generate a proper response to the disease. Despite that, it is reported that effectiveness of most vaccines is still pretty damn close to being 100 percent. For example, the inactivated polio vaccine offers 99 percent effectiveness after three doses. The incidence of polio has decreased by 99 percent as a result, and only three countries in the world have never stopped the transmission of polio. 

The History of Vaccines reports that "The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is between 85 percent and 90 percent effective in preventing all varicella infections, but 100 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe chicken pox." Additionally, the single measles vaccine or a second dose of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella), has 99.7 percent of vaccinated individuals immune to measles. 

3. Myth: Spreading out vaccinations is safer for young children.

Some parents are concerned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) current vaccination schedule could be "overloading" their kids' immune systems. The CDC recommends protecting kids under the age of 2 years old from 14 diseases through vaccinations. Parents argue that this cold lead to diseases like diabetes and neurodevelopmental delays.

Harvard's Women's Health Watch reports that a lot of vaccines do contain weakened or killed germs, but they're not powerful enough to overwhelm the immune system. The publication, and others, point out that immune systems are inundated with germs from the environment already, so the vaccinations will not throw off the immune system.

Furthermore, a 2015 survey published in the journal Pediatrics showed that out of 534 pediatricians and family doctors, only about 1 percent of respondents agreed that vaccines should be spread out. They point out that extending the vaccination schedule actually leaves kids more vulnerable to dangerous diseases for longer periods. Still, almost all the doctors reported getting requests from parents to spread out the vaccination over a period of time. 

4. Myth: It's not recommended to get a flu vaccination every year.

Some believe that they don't need a flu vaccine each year, especially if the strand of flu has remained the same. However, the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for almost everyone 6 months or older. That's because immunization protection declines over time and a yearly vaccination will help give people the optimal protection. 

5. Myth: Homeopathy is a proven working alternative to vaccines.

National Heath Service (NHS) reports that it's a myth that homeopathy — a "treatment based on the use of highly diluted substances" — is a proven working alternative that can be used in place of vaccines. They report there is no evidence that homeopathy can protect children against illnesses and disease.

6. Myth: Adults don't need to get vaccinated.

A lot of vaccination talk is focused on kids, but it's important that adults get vaccinations, too. Harvard's Women's Health Watch points out that as we age, our immune systems lose some of its protective ability and the incidence of getting other diseases increase.

Vaccines.gov even has a vaccination schedule for those who are 19 years or older showing vaccination recommendations for adults. Some vaccinations require boosters while others, such as the flu shot, need to be given regularly to maintain optimal effectiveness. 

7. Myth: The mercury in vaccines can make you ill.

Certain vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, which some believe can be harmful. However, the CDC reports that "data from many studies shows no evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines." It is rare to have an allergic reaction to thimerosal and the most common side effects are redness or swelling.

8. Myth: Vaccinations can cause SIDs.

There is concern from some parents that vaccinations can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs), but the CDC points to several studies examining a possible link, but found none.  

9. Myth: Pregnant woman should not get vaccinated.

Vaccination during pregnancy is actually an important thing because babies share everything with their moms. The CDC recommends that those who are planning to start a family ensure all their vaccinations are up to date. Furthermore, there are vaccinations that are recommended for pregnant women including the flu shot, whooping cough (Pertussis), and certain immunizations that are needed for traveling internationally. 

10. Myth: Vaccines can cause serious side effects.

While vaccines can cause minor side effects, the chance of vaccines causing serious side effects or death are very low. The CDC sates that most side effects are mild and include things such as headaches, fever, joint pain, stuffy nose, and sore throat. The area of the injection might sometimes be red or inflamed.

Cover image via Shutterstock I MAGNIFIER

Video you'll love.


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.