Importance of Immunizations

Over the past several years, there have been many different stories going around talking about vaccines. Rumors about vaccines have been around just as long as vaccines (since the 1700s). This is still an issue today; the World Health Organization has included anti-vaccination and anti-vaxxers (people who refuse or promote the refusal of vaccination) as one of the top ten major threats to human health. Even though early vaccines didn’t start out as both safe and effective, scientists have spent countless hours to develop products that are both safe and work. We’ve come a long way in 300 years! Let’s explore some of the facts and fictions about vaccines.

Fiction: I can get the flu from the flu shot.

Fact: Vaccines help your body recognize the bacteria and viruses that can make you sick.

These days, most vaccines are made from dead viruses and bacteria and once they’re dead, they aren’t coming back. In other words, you won’t get the flu from the flu shot. Only a few vaccines today are still made using live viruses and bacteria, but even then, the chance of getting an active case of disease you’re trying to protect against is small.

Don’t confuse some of the side effects with getting sick; since vaccines do have some common side effects that may seem like the flu. You might find that you’re running a little temperature. Maybe your arm is sore where you got the shot. You might even feel a little weak and tired. Don’t worry though, this is just your body building up its immunity against the virus or bacteria from the vaccine.

If your symptoms aren’t mild or show up 48 hours after immunization, it is possible that you do have the flu. Remember that symptoms of the flu typically show up a few days after coming in contact with the virus.

Fiction: The MMR vaccine can cause autism.

Fact: In response to the hesitation this myth introduced, many studies were completed and found that there is no link between vaccines and autism

This has to be one of the more ridiculous rumors about vaccines, because it started with an article written by a doctor and published in a medical journal. After publication, they found that the doctor lied about the data and information in his article. He was being paid to “find evidence” that linked autism and vaccines The doctor was even trying to make money off of other products—including an MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine of his own—after he knocked out the competition. The journal removed the article from their publication after learning it was wrong. The truth of the matter is this one doctor lied, so many others searched diligently to conclude there is no evidence or link to even suggest that vaccines cause autism.

Fiction: Vaccines are full of poisons.

Fact: The very small amounts of aluminum and thimerosal in multi-dose vials are less than you get in your body on a regular basis.

With this it is important to point out that the amount of anything that you take into your body can be helpful or hurtful. Consider water. Water is good for you, but if you drink way too much of it, it can cause problems for you. Two things found in some vaccines are aluminum and thimerosal. They exist in small amounts as a preservative in vaccines. Your pharmacist can identify vaccines that do not contain these preservatives if you are hesitant. Consider this: an average person gets more of these in their body though their normal life (from being outside, the things you drink, and the foods that you eat) than from a single vaccine.

Fiction: Everyone can receive all vaccines.

Fact: Being vaccinated helps protect the people around me that can’t get vaccines.

Truth be told, there are different reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to get certain vaccines. If you’re allergic to part of a vaccine, currently sick, take certain medications, or have some health conditions, then specific shots may not be safe for you. The form you complete before receiving a shot helps your pharmacist identify any reason you cannot receive a planned vaccine. If a person can’t get their shot, then the best way to keep them safe is for all of us that can get the shot to do so. If a lot of people receive a shot and are immune to a disease, then it is less likely that someone who couldn’t get the shot will come in contact with the disease. In short, getting your shots helps to protect both you and the people around you.

Fiction: Vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they protect against.

Fact: Vaccine preventable disease can be serious and life threatening.

Have you ever heard of smallpox? It’s a disease that is extinct, gone from the world today thanks to vaccinations. Before the smallpox vaccine, if you got smallpox, there was a 30% change that you would not survive the disease. What about polio? It is a disease that can paralyze people and can lead to death too. Again, because of proper vaccination, it is a rare disease that is uncommon in the world today. However, even a disease as well known as the flu can cause severe illness and death. So why take the risk of something serious when you could easily prevent it with a shot?

It can be hard to know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to vaccines these days, but don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. If you have any questions about diseases and vaccines, ask your doctor or pharmacist and they can help point you in the right direction. We’re here to help keep you and your family healthy. It’s what we do and it’s what we love!

To learn more about vaccines, visit the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html

Taylor James, PharmD Candidate 2020

University of South Carolina – College of Pharmacy

References:

  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome Concerns | Vaccine Safety | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/guillain-barre-syndrome.html.
  • Parents Guide to Childhood Immunizations | Questions Answered | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/tools/parents-guide/parents-guide-part4.html.
  • Smallpox | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/index.html.
  • Vaccines: The Myths and the Facts: AAAAI. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/vaccine-myth-fact. Published August 19, 2019.
  • Weigmann K. An injection of confidence. EMBO reports. https://www.embopress.org/doi/full/10.15252/embr.201643589. Published November 21, 2016.