5 Common Myths About Vaccines, Busted
Representational Image: Reuters
Vaccines are the perfect way to build immunity in a population and stop the spread of infectious diseases. Most vaccines contain a weakened or killed form of a pathogen or a protein from the pathogen that our body mounts an immune response against, just as it would if it really faced the pathogen. So when the pathogen actually enters our body, our immune system recognises it and clears it out quickly without letting it cause disease.
For immunisation to be successful, vaccinating a certain percentage of the population is important. Failing to do so would mean there are enough susceptible people for the disease to keep on spreading. However, despite the success of so many vaccines in the past, many people are still hesitant about them. Distrust in vaccine efficiency and safety and the many conspiracy theories on social media websites are said to be some of the causes of vaccine hesitancy.
Here are five common myths about vaccines:
Myth 1: Vaccines are not needed since the disease can be eradicated with proper hygiene measures.
Truth: A lot of people think that vaccines are not really needed and the disease can be eradicated when proper precautions are taken. However, the current pandemic and previous outbreaks of infectious diseases indicate that no amount of vigilance can make this possible. Not every person follows precautionary measures well, which is apparent from the anti-mask rumours and protests in the past few months. Another example would be the UK, which is no longer considered measles-free because of the reduction in MMR vaccination in the country.
Myth 2: Vaccines don’t work since people get the disease even after being vaccinated.
Truth: It is true that some people do get the disease even after being vaccinated against it. This is because vaccines contain a weakened or killed version of the microbe and not all people develop immunity after getting a vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective. But the benefits of getting vaccinated far exceed those of not vaccinating at all.
Myth 3: Vaccines are not safe to take and have several side effects.
Truth: This belief comes from the fact that vaccines contain aluminium compounds and formaldehyde - both of which could lead to toxicity. However, experts suggest that these compounds are present in such minute amounts that they are unlikely to cause any side effects. You get exposed to much higher amounts of the same compounds from everyday products including paints, cosmetics, and automobile exhaust. Aluminium is even present in food and drinking water.
Myth 4: Certain lots of vaccines are more dangerous than others.
Truth: As per the WHO, vaccine lots contain different amounts of shots that range from a few hundred thousand to several million. The higher the number of vaccines in a single lot, the longer the lot will be in circulation and the higher the chance that a health condition may show up in a vaccinated person. But these conditions are not necessarily linked to the vaccine and can be due to sheer coincidence. In fact, a lot of infants die in their first year of life due to completely unrelated health conditions.
Myth 5: If a lot of people are getting vaccinated I don’t have to.
Truth: Vaccines help generate herd immunity in a population only when a certain number of people in the population get immunised. Failing to achieve this number would mean that herd immunity will either not be generated (if it is a new disease like COVID-19) or will slowly disappear (if it an old disease like measles). Besides, if you are immunocompromised or pregnant, you are anyway at a higher risk of developing some diseases. So it is better to get vaccinated against these diseases than taking a chance.
For more information, read our article on How vaccines are made.
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