There are a lot of myths and misconception surrounding the practice of vaccination. Although 80 to 90 percent children receive all necessary vaccination, recent times have seen a growth in the number of parents that are opting out. When something like this happens, it increases the risk of an outbreak in the community; hence making it a cause of social concern. Most common reason for not opting to vaccinate a child that is given by parents is that they do not think it to be safe, despite the overwhelming evidence that dispels any such belief.
Vaccination may involve some risks. Vaccinating children to protect them from deadly diseases can have immediate short-term side effects like swelling and redness of the site of injection, rashes, and fever. But more severe risks, like allergic reactions, are far less probable than the diseases the vaccines protect against. We are laying down some of the most common fears and reasons parents have to decide against vaccination and the truth behind them.
1. So many vaccines may weaken the immune system of the child
Vaccinations in the 1970s and 1980s protected a child against 8 diseases. Nowadays, a fully vaccinated child can beat back 14 diseases. So, if a child gets more vaccine shots now than before, he or she is also protected against more diseases. Antigens that are present in the vaccines are viral or bacterial components that induce the immune system to produce antibodies and fight infections.
2. The child’s immune system is immature.
Parents believe that it is better to delay some vaccines and get only the ones that are important. This is one of the biggest misconceptions that parents have and it also leaves the child exposed and susceptible to harmful diseases for a longer period of time. There is no proof that having a gap in vaccinations is safe for a child. In fact, the recommended vaccination schedule is designed in such a way that it provides the greatest protection for the child.
3. Vaccines contain toxic materials
Vaccines mostly contain antigens in water. However, additional ingredients are required to stabilize the solution and increase the effectiveness of the vaccines. Some vaccines contain thimerosal preservative which breaks down into ethyl mercury. Unlike methylmercury, ethyl mercury is not harmful. But as a precaution, thimerosal has been removed from the vaccines since 2001. The aluminium salts present in the vaccines enhance the immune system leading to higher antibody production and making the vaccine more effective.
4. The illnesses are rare
This one is interesting because it provides a testament to the effectiveness of the vaccines. Illnesses are rare because vaccines have stopped them from spreading, and protects those who are not vaccinated. Such a case is called ‘herd immunity’. But this immunity can break when more and more people opt out of vaccination.
5. Vaccines can cause autism
Although we really wish we knew what causes autism – vaccines do not do that. Researchers have looked again and again into this matter and have found no proof that links vaccination to autism.
6. Vaccination is only a way to make a lot of money
Pharmaceutical companies, no doubt, gain a profit from vaccines but they are not some big drug that can make them millions and billions of dollars. Moreover, in India, vaccination is provided for free in the government hospitals, or at a nominal fee that could be afforded by all.
7. Side effects are worse than the diseases themselves
This is nothing but a great statement of ignorance. Diseases like chicken pox killed 100 children a year (approx.) before varicella vaccine was introduced. Protection against diseases like polio, measles, etc. is a great achievement in the medical field as well as in the history of mankind. Minor side effects like rashes, fever, swelling, etc. are commonly observed but serious risks are very rare. For example, the rotavirus vaccine has a confirmed serious side effect called intussusception which is a bowel obstruction and may require surgery, but this happens to one in every 20000 to 100000 infants vaccinated.