There’s a lot that gets said about the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of vaccines in the news, on social media and across the internet. Fortunately, National Immunization Awareness Month, which occurs every August, is the perfect time to highlight the facts and debunk the popular myths surrounding vaccinations.
So what’s the real story? Here are three of the most important things to know about immunization as well as three myths that persist in the public mindset.
Fact: Vaccines Protect You from Harmful Diseases
If you’re serious about taking a proactive approach to your health and wellness, getting vaccinated is an ideal and affordable way to do just that.
By shielding you from many of the devastating illnesses you grew up hearing about, such as the mumps, measles, influenza, etc., vaccines keep you safe and help keep money in your pocket, too. In fact, an analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014 estimated that vaccines administered to children over a 20-year period saved nearly $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.
Myth: Getting Vaccinated Means You’re Completely Safe from Getting Sick
Even if you’re vaccinated for a certain disease, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick; however, in many cases, it can make illnesses less severe. On top of that, the more people around you who get vaccinated, the less likely it is that you’ll get sick in the first place.
Fact: Vaccines Can Help Eliminate Dangerous Diseases
Vaccines play a pivotal role in ridding the world of dangerous, life-threatening diseases. Most notably, the World Health Organization announced in 1980 that the world was free of smallpox — two years after the last person had died from the disease. The elimination of the virus, which once affected millions of people, was made possible as a result of expansive vaccination programs.
Myth: You Don’t Need to Get Vaccinated Because Many Diseases Are Already Eliminated
Although we commonly associate diseases such as polio, diphtheria, the mumps, and the measles with a time period before modern medicine, the fact is that these illnesses still exist and pose a real threat to children and those with compromised immune systems.
While many of the major diseases of the past are seen far less frequently than before, the only way to completely wipe out a disease is with the widespread use of vaccinations — and there’s still work to be done.
Fact: The United States Has the Safest Vaccine Supply in History
One of the main functions of the CDC is to study and monitor vaccines to ensure the safety of the American population. As a result, the United States continues to lead the world in regards to vaccine effectiveness and safety.
The CDC works closely with the Food and Drug Administration to carry out clinical trials to make decisions about whether a vaccine is ready for general use. After a vaccine has been approved for public use, it is monitored for effectiveness as well as any negative effects for groups that may have been underrepresented in clinical trials.
Myth: Vaccines Cause Autism
In 1998, a study published in a medical journal made note of a potential link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study was later deemed flawed and ultimately retracted by the journal that published it. Unfortunately, the study’s publication contributed to dropping immunization rates, which opened the door for the return of diseases such as the measles in the United States.
The World Health Organization states: “There is no evidence of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders.” Additionally, both the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have echoed these findings with their own studies.
Fact: Not Everyone Can Get Vaccinated
While the majority of people can receive vaccinations, age, specific health conditions, or allergies may be reasons why someone can’t get vaccinated.
The CDC includes a comprehensive list of vaccines and associated disqualifying factors on its website. If you have any questions about whether or not a vaccine is right for you, talk to your primary health care provider. He or she will be able to tell you if there are any risks you should be aware of.