MYTH: I don’t need vaccines if I’m healthy.

We’re healthy until we’re not. No one plans on getting sick, much like how no one plans to get into a car accident, but we wear our seatbelt to protect us just in case. Even healthy people can become gravely ill from diseases such as measles or the flu, among others, if they’re not vaccinated. Additionally, healthy folks can spread disease to others with weaker immune systems. Some vaccines can also prevent cancer and immunizing someone who’s healthy increases the likelihood of a good immune response.

MYTH: Natural infection is better than immunization.

The immune system doesn’t know the difference between a natural infection and a vaccination. It recognizes or “sees” something foreign, mounts an immune response, and then provides protection. Some vaccines actually provide a better immune response than natural infection. The real difference between natural infection and immunization is the price you pay. After natural infection, serious consequences can occur including paralysis, permanent brain damage, liver failure, liver cancer, deafness, blindness, loss of limbs and death. The cost of a vaccine is typically a few dollars.

MYTH: Giving an infant multiple vaccines can overwhelm the immune system.

Babies begin to see bacteria immediately when passing through the birth canal. Healthy babies begin making antibodies, or weapons, to protect against infection right away. By comparison, vaccines only use a tiny amount of the immune system to respond. Although today’s children receive more vaccines than in the past, the vaccines contain fewer antigens — the substance that induces an immune response in the body — than previous vaccines.

MYTH: The flu shot gave me the flu.

The influenza shot contains a dead virus, so it cannot cause infection. The vaccine uses part of the inactivated virus that the body recognizes as foreign and mounts an immune response. It’s like showing someone a shell of a car — you would recognize it as being a car, but you cannot drive to Houston with it.

Once the vaccine is given, it takes about two weeks to mount an immune response. It’s possible for someone to be exposed to the influenza virus before being vaccinated, or since other viruses are common during flu season, some people mistake any symptom with the “flu.” No vaccine is 100 percent effective, so it’s still possible to get influenza despite the vaccine, but the good news is that those who have the vaccine will have a less severe illness.

MYTH: Vaccines cause autism.

No, it does not.

The 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield started this concern was based on a biased study. In 2004, 10 of the 13 authors retracted the study’s interpretation. Wakefield had his medical license stripped away due to his research being “dishonest,” “irresponsible,” and he has shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in the studies. There has been a series of articles proving that not only was Wakefield’s work bad science, but deliberate fraud.

Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch. For questions about vaccines, email vaccine.smarts@utmb.edu.

(1) comment

Randy Chapman

Hopefully, the idiot anti-vaxers will read this and learn something they didn't read on Facebook.

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