If you’re like the majority of parents, you’ve probably had your kids vaccinated according to your doctor’s recommendations and your state’s requirements for specific vaccines for schoolchildren. However, according to recent vaccine data obtained by USA Today, nearly one in seven public and private schools have measles vaccination rates below 90 percent.
In some states—such as Arizona and California—vaccination rates at some schools drop below 50 percent. Health officials have speculated that misinformation is the problem, leading to a minority of parents that believe the health risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits. If you’ve been tempted to joint them, consider these busted myths first.
MYTH: Vaccines are dangerous.
MYTH: Vaccines are dangerous.
FACT: No medication is 100 percent risk-free, and neither are vaccines. However, most vaccination side effects are mild (such as redness and swelling at the injection site), and are far less unpleasant than the symptoms caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Severe allergic reactions to vaccination are extremely rare.
While some anti-vaccination groups insist that the diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (DTP) vaccine can cause brain damage and sudden infant death syndrome, research has not proven a DTP/SIDS link. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research organizations such as the Institute of Medicine, any concern that the ingredients used in vaccines can lead to autism is unfounded.
MYTH: A few unvaccinated kids won’t cause a problem.
FACT: Immunizations protect the children who get them from contracting specific diseases. However, the presence of unvaccinated children and adults increase the total disease risks within a community. They can contract the infection and pass it along to other unimmunized individuals—including kids who are behind on their vaccination schedules and those who cannot be vaccinated because of medical problems. Pregnant women and babies are also at greater risk.
MYTH: We’ve wiped out many of these diseases in the U.S. so there’s no point in vaccinating against them.
FACT: If the recent “Disneyland Measles Outbreak” has proven anything, it’s that you never know when a previously eradicated disease is going to crop up again. History has shown that a decrease in vaccination rates always leads to an increase in disease rates. Until we’re able to eliminate diseases like diphtheria, polio and measles from the entire planet, immunization of our children will continue to be necessary.
MYTH: You don’t need vaccines if you practice good nutrition.
FACT: While feeding your child a nutritious diet may make it more difficult for her to catch the common cold, eating well will not provide disease-specific protection. The only way to get that is to challenge your child’s immune system with a specific virus in the form of a vaccine. This will stimulate it to produce the appropriate antibodies. Not all the kale, quinoa and vitamin C in the world can do that.
Of course, kids with certain health problems may legitimately have a reason to skip certain vaccines. The easiest way to determine if your child is in a high-risk group is to ask his physician. In general, immune deficiencies, seizure disorders, neurological problems, certain food allergies and drug sensitivities will require additional evaluation before you settle on an immunization plan.