With the recent FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, and as it gets closer to becoming available to the general public, there is also a lot of uncertainty about the vaccine and vaccines in general.
Vaccine Myths and Facts
T Newsome, MD, an internal medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group, helps to dispel some of the myths about vaccines that have been going around the last several years.
Myth: Vaccines contain harmful ingredients
Fact: Vaccines contain ingredients that allow the product to be safely administered. “Many vaccines contain minimal doses of ingredients that you are naturally exposed to in daily life,” says Dr. Newsome. Some vaccines may contain minimal amounts of thimerosal, formaldehyde and aluminum.
Thimerosal has mercury and is used as a preservative in multi-dose vials. However, you are exposed to mercury through milk, seafood and contact lens solutions. Since so many vaccines are now single-dose vials, there is very minimal thimerosal in vaccines, if any.
The amount of formaldehyde in the vaccine to keep the virus inactive is significantly lower than what you are exposed to through vehicle exhaust, household products, cosmetics and felt tip markers.
Occasionally, some vaccines may also contain aluminum to help build a stronger immunity against the disease, but this too is a much lower amount than what you typically consume through food, water and medications.
Myth: Vaccines cause autism and sudden infant death syndrome
Fact: There is no research that supports the myth that vaccines cause autism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The study from 1998, that suggested the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) caused autism has been retracted as it was flawed and did not provide factual support. “Vaccines are thoroughly researched before they are given to anyone, but especially children. By not getting a vaccine, you are risking more harm to you and/or your child by getting the disease,” says Dr. Newsome. “For instance, polio can cause paralysis and measles can cause blindness and inflammation of the brain,” he adds. Both diseases and their complications can be prevented by being inoculated.
Myth: Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity
Fact: The dangers of getting a disease far outweigh the side effects of a vaccine. “You may feel a little under the weather the day you get your vaccine, like soreness or stiffness in your arm, fatigue and low-grade fever, but these reactions are minimal and are a natural reaction of your immune system,” explains Dr. Newsome.
Myth: Vaccines cause you to get sick with the illness
Fact: When you’re vaccinated, you have a very low to impossible chance of getting sick with the illness you are being vaccinated from. You may experience some slight side effects as your body accepts the vaccine, but they are minimal. If you receive a live weakened vaccine, like chickenpox or MMR, you may have a very mild illness that is much less severe than the actual disease. In some cases, like the flu shot, you don’t become fully protected until about two weeks after your shot. During this period, you may actually get the flu, but it may be less severe than usual since you have some protection from the vaccine.
Myth: Vaccines are not tested enough
Fact: Vaccines are tested by thousands of people before they are approved and recommended by the FDA and go through rigorous and strict reviews that evaluates their safety and efficacy. Even after they are approved, they are still closely watched and tested for uncommon or rare side effects and are constantly being researched to see how they can be improved. There is also a national vaccine monitoring system that tracks side effects to ensure their safety, so data is continually being monitored.
Myth: You don’t need to be vaccinated if you’re healthy
Fact: Vaccines are provided to everyone to prevent illnesses from being spread amongst those who are healthy or sick. Even if you are healthy, a disease can cause you to become extremely ill, cause extreme complications or even death. Getting vaccinated against these diseases is the best way to prevent you from getting them.