Debunking the top 8 vaccination myths

We ask four doctors to debunk common immunisation myths

Myth: I have allergies so I can’t get vaccines
If you have an allergic reaction, there’s usually a definite cause for that allergy, which is unrelated to getting a vaccine. So just having an allergy is not a reason in itself to not get vaccinated, unless you have had a direct allergic reaction to a certain vaccine, in which case you should not undergo that vaccination.

Myth: I was vaccinated for influenza last year so I don’t need to do it again
The influenza virus has a high rate of mutation, which makes it difficult for the immune system to build up a lasting immunity. The make-up of the vaccination changes every year and will reflect the viruses that have been most common in the previous months. Since the vaccine does not only make it less likely to get influenza, but also shortens the duration of the disease, it is recommended to get vaccinated every year. This is especially true if you belong to an at-risk group – people with chronic diseases, people over 65 years and children under 6 months.

Dr. John Bell is an Internist at Parkway Health

Myth: Children are too young and weak to withstand vaccination
Children aged 6 months can receive flu vaccinations. Other vaccines can be administered at an even earlier age, as most healthy children are able to withstand vaccinations with minimal or no complications. Beginning at birth, children’s immune systems are already starting to mature and become adaptable, as they get exposed to a variety of antigens in their environments. Therefore vaccination is a safe way to boost their immunity against many common childhood diseases.

Myth: Vaccinations have damaging effects in the long term
After extensive and ongoing research regarding vaccinations, there is no hard evidence of vaccines causing long term damage. Vaccines are very safe, with most vaccine reactions being mild and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever. You’re more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of vaccines being a safe public health measure and the benefits of the procedure greatly outweigh the risk.

Dr Yonglie Lee is a Family Medicine Physician and Chair of Family Medicine at Shanghai United Family Hospital.

Myth: Vaccination causes autism
While there are still some research groups that believe vaccinations and autism are related, we know that autism is caused by a combination of genetic and biological factors, not vaccines. Furthermore recent research done by US and Australian medical research groups still prove that there’s no direct link between these two things. Because there’s no proven connection and because we know the great benefits of vaccination, it’s important for parents to be completely informed about vaccinations before deciding against immunizing children.

Myth: Most major diseases have disappeared so there’s need to get vaccinated
Vaccinations target contagious diseases that, if not vaccinated against, can infect others. The big advantage of a vaccine is that they can prevent the onset of a disease and ensure carriers don’t pass it on, for example if a mother has Hepatitis B, if vaccined, her children won’t inherit the disease. Although we can control contagious diseases and conditions through routine vaccinations, it doesn’t mean these diseases have vanished. Once we stop getting regularly vaccinated, these diseases will come back, like with Tuberculosis, where we’re now seeing a slight increase in TB cases. Getting vaccinated is still very important.

Dr Wang Qiu Ju is a Family Doctor at American Sino

Myth: Healthy people don’t need vaccinations
Vaccinations are still very beneficial and useful to get, as they help prevent against any major or not so major diseases. With something as widespread as influenza, it’s recommended that everyone should consider undergoing routine flu shots.

Myth: Vaccines contain toxic and harmful chemicals
In general, vaccines are produced from dead or inactivated organisms or purified essences derived from these organisms. Used in vaccines, these organisms then help boost our immune system. While vaccines do make use of organism matter, there are no proven studies that show that vaccines contain any toxic or harmful chemicals.

Dr Jorge Chedrauy is the Director of Family Medicine at the American Medical Center