Vaccination myths and facts
There are myths surrounding vaccination and as a healthcare professional it is important you are prepared and able to repudiate them. Below are some common myths parents may have regarding vaccination followed by fact.
Myth - Vaccines don't work.
If vaccines didn't work, then we would see substantial outbreaks of preventable diseases. Although we know that not everyone produces protection, we have no way of knowing who these individuals are. It is important that everyone is immunised so that the ones who don't gain immunity are protected by the majority who can be vaccinated.
Myth - Immunisation isn't necessary for my child because there aren't many of these illnesses about.
This is true, but that is only because of the immunisation programme. In many other countries these illnesses are still common, and with increased worldwide travel we can help keep our children safe by immunisation. In addition this will help protect vulnerable individuals who cannot be vaccinated.
Myth - I shall protect my baby by keeping him/her away from other children.
Unfortunately it is just not possible or advisable to totally isolate your baby. Indeed, it is not just other children but adults as well who can carry the germs. Also, tetanus is present in the soil and it is impossible to protect your child from minor cuts and grazes which can carry a risk of infection.
Myth - Vaccines aren't safe - they carry more risks than the illnesses themselves.
All vaccines are rigorously tested for their effectiveness and safety. The incidence and severity of adverse reactions are also tested and continue to be monitored even after the vaccine has been licensed. We know that vaccines have a small risk of side effects, but these are less common than the risk from the actual disease.
Myth - The 2nd dose of MMR was introduced in the United Kingdom because it doesn't work properly.
No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and most vaccines are given more than once in order to build up immunity and maintain their effectiveness. The 2nd MMR dose was introduced to help prevent a build-up of enough susceptible children to sustain future outbreaks; and also to bring us into line with World Health Organisation recommendations to prevent outbreaks and to eliminate disease - in particular measles. Most countries in the Western world have a two-dose measles schedule.
Myth - MMR should be given as three separate injections
It is much better to have MMR rather than separate injections. Having the vaccines separately leaves children at risk of catching the diseases for longer periods of time. In addition the single vaccines are not licensed in this country. The licensing process of vaccines is designed to ensure that there is evidence from properly conducted scientific studies to demonstrate that they work and that they are safe.
Myth - MMR causes autism.
There is no evidence to support this. Indeed the researchers (Wakefield et al) stated that they had been unable to make such a link. The diagnosis of autism is often made at around the same time of MMR vaccination, but there is no evidence that MMR can cause autism. Carefully undertaken studies have failed to find measles viruses in autistic children, giving considerable confidence that MMR plays no part at all in causing autism.