Thanks to the great work of our skeptical sympathizers in Australia, we have another science-based refutation of anti-vaccinationist claims by Dr. Rachael Dunlop. You can find the full story here, but allow me to summarize some excerpts of each myth and response below. Keep in mind that these are only summaries, and much more information on this “immunization cheat sheet” can be found at the source.
The Myths Surrounding Vaccination
Myth 1: Vaccines cause autism.
“The theory that vaccines cause autism was first suggested by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. Since then, Wakefield’s paper has been discredited and withdrawn from The Lancet and Wakefield has lost his medical licence for showing ‘callous disregard’ for children’s welfare.
Since 1998 there have been countless large and comprehensive studies looking for a link between vaccines and autism, but the evidence keeps coming up negative.”
[Many more studies showing that there is no link are referenced in the original article.]
Myth 2: Vaccines contain mercury
“Mercury has not been present in routine childhood vaccines in Australia since 2000 and it was never in the MMR vaccine.”
Myth 3: Vaccines contain toxic ingredients
“Many of these claims are quite simply untrue. The rest, without exception, misrepresent the facts.
These [additives] are known as “adjuvants” and work like a booster to kick start the immune system into making antibodies. But just as the “dose makes the poison”, the concentrations of these metals are so low as to not be harmful to the body.”
Myth 4: Vaccines have never been tested.
“When people claim that vaccines have ‘never been tested’ they usually mean that they have not undergone randomized placebo controlled trials (RCTs). To do an RCT of a vaccine you would need to take two groups of kids, give one group the vaccine, and the other a placebo, then expose both groups to the disease to see which ones survive. Raise your hand if you can see the problem here…
Not only would such an experiment be unethical, it’s unnecessary. We have extensive evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines; the eradication of smallpox and the near-eradication of polio from the world are just two examples.”
[Many more studies are referenced in the original article.]
Myth 5: Vaccines don’t work because children who are vaccinated can still get the disease.
“No vaccine is 100% effective, and since everybody’s physiology is different, not everyone will develop immunity to the same degree; a vaccine is not a force field. But while you can still breathe in a virus or pick up bacteria off a door handle, the seriousness of the disease will be significantly reduced if you have been vaccinated. In the case of pertussis or whooping cough, severe complications such as seizures and pneumonia occur almost exclusively in unvaccinated people and one in every 200 babies who contract the disease will die.”
Myth 6: Improved living standards, not vaccination have reduced disease.
“The three most significant factors in the reduction of infectious disease have been clean water, sewerage systems, and vaccination. But even in isolation, vaccination has made a huge dent in reducing rates of disease.”
Myth 7: Infectious diseases are not serious; children are meant to get them.
“If you still think infectious diseases are harmless, wander through your local cemetery one day and note how many children died from diseases that we no longer see in society today – stamped out largely due to mass vaccination. Some of us are old enough to remember the images of children in iron lungs and calipers during the scourge of polio, which was wiped out by vaccination.”
Myth 8: Vaccines cause or spread the diseases they are supposed to prevent.
“Experiencing a slight temperature and/or a sore arm after getting a vaccine is actually a good thing. While some people misinterpret this as “getting the flu after the flu vaccine” it simply indicates that your immune system is responding. Vaccines work by priming your immune system with a part of the disease, usually inactivated particles or a fraction of the organism, so that it can make antibodies. This means next time you come across the disease in the environment your body is ready with an arsenal of antibodies to attack it before it can make you really sick.”
Myth 9: My child’s immune system will be overwhelmed.
“The amount of immune challenges that children fight every day (2,000 — 6,000) is significantly greater than the number of antigens in any combination of vaccines (about 150 for the entire vaccination schedule).”
If you found this list helpful, make sure to send it to those who may still harbor many of these myths about vaccines. Vaccines are one of the greatest medical advancements in human history and it would be a disaster to see them unnecessarily shamed by raging conspiracy theorists and poor science.