Vaccines: Fact vs. Fiction
When you receive an immunization, your body is introduced to a weakened form of the virus or bacteria so your immune system can develop the antibodies to fight it off if you are exposed to a live form later on. Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group The Woodlands is here to provide information about vaccines and root out the rumors.
“Getting immunized protects not only yourself, but those around you.”
When you get vaccinated, you significantly decrease your risk of disease. This means that you reduce the spread of illness throughout your community. Without giving the disease the opportunity to spread, you are reducing your risk of exposing others to dangerous illnesses. It is especially important to get vaccinated if you will be around those who have a more difficult time fighting off disease, including the elderly, babies, and those with already weakened immune systems.
“The flu shot can make you sick with the flu.”
It is impossible to get the virus from the vaccine. The viruses that are introduced to your body through vaccines are either dead or extensively damaged so they cannot cause an infection. You may wonder why some people do get the flu after receiving the immunization; this is due to the fact that the flu virus evolves into many different variations each year. The annual flu shot includes the most common strains that are likely to cause problems for that particular year, so you might not be protected if you come in contact with a less common strain. It is also a possibility that you came into contact with the flu virus before your body had the time to develop the antibodies to fight it after receiving the vaccine. Overall, your chances of getting the flu are significantly lower after vaccination.
“I don’t need vaccines for diseases that are already controlled in the U.S.”
Widespread use of vaccines has decreased the prevalence of certain diseases in the United States. Because diseases like polio and mumps are rare in the U.S., some people may assume that they do not need those immunizations. However, these diseases are not controlled in other parts of the world and can easily be brought into the country by foreign visitors. Those who have not been immunized have a greater risk of contracting these “rare” diseases carried by travelers from countries where these diseases are not so rare.
“Not everyone should get vaccinated.”
Certain vaccines are not approved for everyone. For instance, babies under the age of six months should not receive the flu shot since it has not been approved for that age group. Also, those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs and those who have developed Guillian-Barré syndrome within six weeks of receiving the flu shot in the past should not get the flu shot. If you have a fever, you should wait until symptoms subside before immunization. Talk to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to see if you or your child needs to avoid any immunizations.
“I got the flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need to get it this year.”
The flu virus evolves every year into new strains, and every year, the flu vaccine is developed using the most common strains of the season predicted by the CDC. Just because you received a flu shot the year before does not mean that you will be protected from this season’s strains. Another reason why you need to get the flu shot each year is because the amount of antibodies your body produces from the vaccine to fight off the live virus is at an adequate level for only six to nine months. Your body needs to be introduced to the weakened virus again to develop more antibodies for the next flu season.
“Vaccines can cause autism.”
The claim that vaccines can cause autism has been thoroughly researched and completely disproved. There is no connection between autism and immunizations. The claim that a particular preservative, known as thimerosal, added to vaccines causes autism has no scientific merit; certain countries have not used thimerosal in its vaccines since 1995, yet the rates of autism continue to increase in those areas, meaning there is no correlation. Thimerosal use in vaccines in the United States has been almost eliminated, yet the rates of autism continue to increase in America as well.
“Vaccines decrease a baby’s risk for SIDS.”
If your child is fully immunized, his or her risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is cut in half. Some parents are worried that their infant’s immune system will be overloaded if he or she receives multiple vaccinations at once. However, the tiny amounts of weakened virus or bacteria in each do not cause harm. Stay on schedule with you and your infant’s immunizations to keep him or her healthy.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician for more information about vaccines and for a complete schedule of immunizations your child needs. Schedule an appointment with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group The Woodlands to keep you and your child’s immunizations up to date.