There are many myths about vaccines. Joe Perno, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, helps parents understand the facts about vaccines.
Myth: There is mercury in vaccines and this can be harmful.
Thimerosal, which contains mercury, is used as a preservative in some vaccines to prevent growth of bacteria. Since 2001, there is no thimerosal or mercury in any vaccines routinely given to children under the age of 6. Furthermore, there is no link with vaccines, thimerosal or mercury to autism.
A small amount of thimerosal exists in some flu vaccines; however, the levels are very low and children can safely receive the vaccine. Thimerosal is only present in multi-dose vials since a preservative is needed. Single dose vials do not contain thimerosal or mercury.
Myth: I believe in vaccines, but it would be safer to start immunizations once my child is over 1 year of age.
This is an extremely dangerous practice as it leaves children susceptible to dangerous infections that would be otherwise preventable. For example, pertussis, or whooping cough, is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal to infants. It is imperative to follow the vaccine schedule developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There is no proof that spacing out the vaccinations is safer or better for the child. The current vaccine schedule was developed by the CDC based upon scientific research. Pediatricians and parents are slowing the vaccine schedule down without basing it on any scientific fact. These delays leave the child at risk for disease.
Myth: It is better to have the disease than be vaccinated.
Many people do not realize how dangerous the vaccine-preventable diseases can be to both children and adults. They can be debilitating and deadly diseases. Vaccines have changed the way we practice medicine. Children who show up in the Emergency Center with fever and no immunizations require a very different workup than a child who is fully immunized.
Due to the current vaccines, most people do not recall measles, mumps or whooping cough. However, we have seen large scale outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in this country. Unvaccinated children are at risk for these deadly diseases, and they put others at risk too. For example, infants who have not reached the appropriate vaccine age and those with depressed immune systems (i.e. cancer treatment patients) are particularly at risk.
Myth: Only children need vaccines.
College age children should receive a booster before going off to school. Adults need booster shots also. Currently, we are recommending pertussis immunization for pregnant mothers and any close contacts of newborns. Of course, everyone needs a flu shot each year.
Currently we have declining vaccine rates. For example, in Pinellas County only 75 percent of children under 2 are immunized. A task force has been formed to increase these rates. August is National Immunization Awareness Month. It is a great time to get children and adults caught up on necessary immunizations.
For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.