Vaccines are one of the most hotly debated topics in medicine and public health. The benefits of vaccination are clear – they save lives and protect against serious diseases.
For example, the different types of COVID-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna (the original vaccine and the new bivalent vaccine for the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron variant), Novavax, and AstraZeneca helped to diffuse the severity of the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus and its variances that causes COVID-19) on the span of the last two years and a half.
Despite all its benefits, many myths and misconceptions about vaccines are circulating on the internet and social media. In this article, Ogden Pharmacy will explain what a vaccine is, then we will dispel 23 of the most stubborn myths about vaccines.
- What is a vaccine?
- What are the most spreading myths about vaccines?
- Myth #1: Vaccines are not effective.
- Myth #2: Vaccines cause autism.
- Myth #3: Vaccines are unsafe and have severe side effects.
- Myth #4: Vaccines contain harmful chemicals.
- Myth #5: Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccines.
- Myth #6: Vaccines are unnecessary because diseases are no longer a problem.
- Myth #7: Vaccines contain live viruses that can infect you.
- Myth #8: Vaccines can cause the diseases they are meant to prevent.
- Myth #9: We do not need vaccines because our immune system will protect us.
- Myth #10: Vaccines are not necessary because clean water and sanitation are enough to prevent disease.
- Myth #11: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
- Myth #12: Vaccines are not necessary because herbal remedies or homeopathy can prevent disease.
- Myth #13: I do not need a vaccine because I am not at risk.
- Myth #14: We do not need vaccines because good hygiene and sanitation are enough to prevent diseases.
- Myth #15: I do not need a vaccine because I had the disease as a child.
- Myth #16: The government is mandating vaccines because they are unsafe.
- Myth #17: Big Pharma is behind the push for mandatory vaccines.
- Myth #18: I do not need a flu vaccine because I never get the flu.
- Myth #19: Vaccines are unnecessary because we now have better nutrition and medical care.
- Myth #20: I do not need a vaccine because I have a strong immune system.
- Myth #21: I do not need a vaccine because I do not plan on travelling.
- Myth #22: I do not need a vaccine because I am not around sick people.
- Myth #23: I do not need a vaccine because I am not in a high-risk group.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.
There are also new types of vaccines other than the one above. mRNA vaccine is one of those new types that has been in the making for years, but only the technology was not good enough to properly deliver that type of vaccine. The first mRNA flu vaccine was tested in the 1990s in mice; then, a rabies mRNA vaccine was tested in humans in 2013.
There are also plant-based vaccines. Both mRNA and plant-based vaccines were used recently to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another two types of vaccines are viral vector-based and protein subunit.
The effectiveness of a vaccine depends on several factors, including the disease itself, the age and health of the person being vaccinated, and the method used to produce the vaccine. When a vaccine is administered to a person who is already infected with a disease-causing microorganism, it does not usually provide any benefit. Vaccines can be prophylactic (preventative) to protect people from future infections or therapeutic (treatment) to help treat an ongoing infection.
The word “vaccine” is derived from the Latin word vaccīna, meaning “cowpox,” which was used in 1796 by Edward Jenner to describe the protective agent he had discovered. Jenner’s experiments with cowpox were the first to show that immunity to a disease could be acquired by injection with a preparation containing a weakened form of the disease-causing agent.
Vaccines such as the flu vaccine can contain three or more circulating virus strains, enabling the human body to be well prepared if attacked by any of those strains.
What are the most spreading myths about vaccines?
Myth #1: Vaccines are not effective.
This is not true. Vaccines are highly effective at protecting against disease. For example, the measles vaccine (two doses) is estimated to be almost 100% effective at preventing measles infection. Despite the fact that the smallpox virus was eradicated in the 70s, its vaccine is experiencing a comeback with the monkeypox virus that is circulating right now in the world.
Myth #2: Vaccines cause autism.
There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, several studies and reviews (study 1, study 2, and review) have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism.
Myth #3: Vaccines are unsafe and have severe side effects.
Vaccines are safe. Serious side effects from vaccines are rare, and most are mild, such as a sore arm or mild fever. Additionally, the symptoms of the viruses (that the vaccines protect against) are much more severe than any possible side effect.
Myth #4: Vaccines contain harmful chemicals.
Some vaccines do contain traces of some chemicals, such as formaldehyde and mercury, but these are present in tiny amounts and are not harmful. Additionally, if present, those chemicals always have a specific function. For example, formaldehyde traces are used to deactivate viruses and remove the toxicity of any bacterial toxins.
Myth #5: Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccines.
Natural immunity, which is acquired after exposure to a disease, is not always complete and can take weeks or even months to develop. The consequences of this delayed response could be severe, as in the case of polio and tetanus. On the other hand, vaccines provide immediate and long-lasting protection against disease compared to natural immunity. Of course, some vaccines may need a booster or a second dose, but again this is better than depending only on natural defences.
Myth #6: Vaccines are unnecessary because diseases are no longer a problem.
This is not true. While it is true that vaccines have helped to eradicate some diseases, such as smallpox, others, like measles, are still a serious global health threat. In 2019, there were more than 200,000 measles deaths worldwide.
Myth #7: Vaccines contain live viruses that can infect you.
This is not true. The viruses in vaccines are either dead or weakened so that they cannot cause disease.
Myth #8: Vaccines can cause the diseases they are meant to prevent.
This is not true. It is impossible to get the disease from a vaccine.
Myth #9: We do not need vaccines because our immune system will protect us.
While it is true that our immune system does play a role in protecting us from disease, it is not always enough. Vaccines provide an extra layer of protection.
Myth #10: Vaccines are not necessary because clean water and sanitation are enough to prevent disease.
While clean water and sanitation are important, they are not enough to prevent all diseases. Vaccines are still necessary to protect against some diseases, such as polio.
In fact, in 2022, a polio case and traces of the poliovirus that caused the case (or cases!) are circulating in the USA for the first time in decades!
Myth #11: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
This is not true. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu because it does not contain live viruses.
Myth #12: Vaccines are not necessary because herbal remedies or homeopathy can prevent disease.
Herbal remedies and homeopathy are not effective at preventing or treating disease. Vaccines are the only proven method of preventing disease. In fact, most of those remedies were known in the past when deadly diseases were killing and paralyzing people in millions, and those remedies did not provide sufficient protection then.
Myth #13: I do not need a vaccine because I am not at risk.
Even if you are not at risk for a particular disease, you can still spread it to others who are at risk. This is called “herd immunity.” For example, if you are vaccinated against measles, you can help protect babies who are too young to be vaccinated.
Myth #14: We do not need vaccines because good hygiene and sanitation are enough to prevent diseases.
While good hygiene is important, it is not enough to prevent all diseases. Vaccines are still necessary to protect against some diseases, such as measles, mumps, and COVID-19.
Myth #15: I do not need a vaccine because I had the disease as a child.
If you had a disease as a child, you might not be immune to it as an adult. For example, many adults who had chickenpox as children can still get shingles (which is caused by the same virus causing chickenpox).
Myth #16: The government is mandating vaccines because they are unsafe.
This is not true. The government is not mandating vaccines because they are unsafe. Vaccines are safe and effective, and the government mandates them to protect public health. Actually, any government will incur more healthcare costs if vaccines are unsafe or unnecessary.
Myth #17: Big Pharma is behind the push for mandatory vaccines.
This is not true. Big Pharma is not behind the push for mandatory vaccines. The push for mandatory vaccines is coming from the medical and public health communities, which are concerned about the rising rates of preventable diseases. Big Pharma is highly regulated and monitored by the government, members of parliaments, and different regulatory bodies.
Myth #18: I do not need a flu vaccine because I never get the flu.
While it is true that some people never seem to get the flu, there is no way to predict who will get sick and who will not, or at what point in life (i.e., you can get the flu when you get old, despite not getting it at a young age).
Even people who are generally healthy can get very sick from the flu. You may also get it without showing many symptoms but still transmit it to others. So, the best way to protect others and yourself is to get a flu vaccine every year.
Myth #19: Vaccines are unnecessary because we now have better nutrition and medical care.
The idea that vaccines are no longer necessary because of nutrition and medical care improvements is a misconception. While it is true that these factors have contributed to a decline in the incidence of many diseases, vaccines remain a vital tool in protecting public health.
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against a specific disease-causing organism. These antibodies provide protection against infection by the vaccine-preventable disease. In addition, vaccines help reduce the spread of disease by protecting those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and the immunocompromised.
Myth #20: I do not need a vaccine because I have a strong immune system.
A strong immune system is no match for some diseases, such as polio. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.
Myth #21: I do not need a vaccine because I do not plan on travelling.
You do not have to travel to get some diseases. For instance, you can get measles from someone who travelled to a country where the disease is common.
Myth #22: I do not need a vaccine because I am not around sick people.
Even if you do not have contact with sick people, you can still get some diseases. For example, you can get the flu from someone who is infected but does not have any symptoms yet.
Myth #23: I do not need a vaccine because I am not in a high-risk group.
Some diseases, such as HPV, can affect anyone, regardless of age or health. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.
If you are still concerned about any specific vaccine and you live in Ogden, Lynnwood, or Riverbend in Calgary, you can come to our location at Lynnwood Plaza at 7 – 1603 62 Avenue SE, Calgary T2C 2C5 or give us a call at 587-391-9878.
You can also ask us to do a flu clinic at your workplace. It is FOR FREE!