11 Mar 5 Myths – and facts – about vaccination?
Immunization is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease.
Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and is estimated to avert between 2 and 3 million deaths each year. It is one of the most cost-effective health investments, with proven strategies that make it accessible to even the most hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations. It has clearly defined target groups; it can be delivered effectively through outreach activities; and vaccination does not require any major lifestyle change.
Myth 1: Better hygiene and sanitation will make diseases disappear – vaccines are not necessary. FALSE
Fact 1: The diseases we can vaccinate against will return if we stop vaccination programmes. While better hygiene, hand washing and clean water help protect people from infectious diseases, many infections can spread regardless of how clean we are. If people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon, such as polio and measles, will quickly reappear.
Myth 2: Vaccines have several damaging and long-term side-effects that are yet unknown. Vaccination can even be fatal. FALSE
Fact 2: Vaccines are very safe. Most vaccine reactions are usually minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever. Very serious health events are extremely rare and are carefully monitored and investigated. You are far more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. For example, in the case of polio, the disease can cause paralysis, measles can cause encephalitis and blindness, and some vaccine-preventable diseases can even result in death. While any serious injury or death caused by vaccines is one too many, the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risk, and many, many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccines.
Myth 3: The combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) and the vaccine against poliomyelitis cause sudden infant death syndrome. FALSE
Fact 3: There is no causal link between the administering of the vaccines and sudden infant death, however, these vaccines are administered at a time when babies can suffer sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).,. In other words, the SIDS deaths are co-incidental to vaccination and would have occurred even if no vaccinations had been given. It is important to remember that these four diseases are life-threatening and babies who are not vaccinated against them are at serious risk of death or serious disability.
Myth 4: Vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eradicated in my country, so there is no reason to be vaccinated.FALSE
Fact 4: Although vaccine preventable diseases have become uncommon in many countries, the infectious agents that cause them continue to circulate in some parts of the world. In a highly inter-connected world, these agents can cross geographical borders and infect anyone who is not protected. In western Europe, for example, measles outbreaks have occurred in unvaccinated populations in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom since 2005. So two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. Successful vaccination programmes, like successful societies, depend on the cooperation of every individual to ensure the good of all. We should not rely on people around us to stop the spread of disease; we, too, must do what we can.
Myth 5: Vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses are just an unfortunate fact of life. FALSE
Fact 5: Vaccine preventable diseases do not have to be ‘facts of life’. Illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella are serious and can lead to severe complications in both children and adults, including pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, diarrhoea, ear infections, congenital rubella syndrome (if a woman becomes infected with rubella in early pregnancy), and death. All these diseases and suffering can be prevented with vaccines. Failure to vaccinate against these diseases leaves children unnecessarily vulnerable.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Source: WHO Immunizations