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What you need to know about vaccines now

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vaccine myths

Common myths about vaccine dangers have become a public health concern. Nurses like myself and other clinicians repeatedly hear various reasons why vaccines are shunned, including the annual flu shot.


Many claim they received a flu vaccine and got sick, which is why they avoid them. Health care professionals themselves balk at mandatory flu vaccines.

Among the top vaccine myths that abound and are shared widely on the internet are :

  • You don’t need vaccines anymore
  • They cause autism
  • Vaccines cause autoimmune diseases
  • The flu isn’t serious, so why get a shot?
  • Thimerosal in vaccines is toxic
  • I’ll get the flu if I take the shot

Yes, we need vaccines

There has never been a reason to think we don’t need vaccines. Major illnesses have declined, but not disappeared as the direct result of immunization. Examples include polio, diphtheria, measles, mumps, chickenpox and tetanus.

Yet many people continue to refuse vaccines for themselves as well as their children, putting public and personal health at risk, falsely believing the diseases that can lead to death are no longer a threat.

Medscape highlights the problem of herd immunity that is underappreciated and can put others at risk for illness from lack of widespread vaccination.

Those refusing vaccines put vulnerable populations at risk for illness, such as immunocompromised patients.

Vaccines and autism

Despite strong belief from some that MMR vaccine causes autism, there is no scientific proof to support the notion.

The idea began based on eight cases of autism linked to vaccines, published in the Lancet in 1998. Since that time, several studies have been conducted, finding no link. The study was subsequently retracted because: “...no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient.” The study authors also failed to disclose financial interests.

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Autoimmune diseases

The notion that immunizations can trigger an attack on the body’s immune system originated as the result of case studies. More research is needed to determine who is at risk for autoimmune diseases post vaccination. No large studies have been done proving there is a higher rate of autoimmune diseases between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Flu isn’t serious

Influenza has caused pandemics and worldwide deaths from complications, especially among elders and pregnant women.

Though flu is generally considered self-limiting and mild, complications include severe pneumonia and respiratory failure as well as heart and lung complications.

See: How to protect your home from flu

Thimerosal isn’t toxic

Thimerosal that is needed to preserve vaccines has never been proven to cause autism. Studies suggesting otherwise have been proven to be flawed and invalidated. The ingredient is easily broken down in the body and has been safely added to vaccines since the 1930s.

Flu vaccines do not cause flu

It’s possible you might feel a bit ‘puny’ after getting the flu shot, but the vaccine does not cause influenza. If you get sick it’s because you already had been exposed to the virus prior to your shot or the flu immunization was not effective, which can happen year to year.

The most common reaction that occurs is some tenderness, redness at the injection site. You could develop mild headache or low grade fever.

If you’re hedging about getting vaccines, you may want to think twice. Myths about vaccines are perpetrated and widely spread throughout the internet. Know the facts before you make a health decision based on misinformation.