Vaccines: Debunking the Myths - Eskenazi Health

It’s a hot topic in today’s society – parents debating over whether or not to have their children vaccinated. With so many outlets providing information to consumers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s easy to become confused in the conversation. So, what’s fact and what’s fiction?

The most widespread fear surrounding vaccinations is the idea that children who receive vaccines are at an increased risk for developing autism. There is no known link between any vaccine and autism. This fear was instilled in parents across the globe after a study was published in a prestigious medical journal suggesting that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused an increase of autism in children. This article has since been completely discredited for several reasons, including serious procedural error and ethical violations. Several other major studies were conducted following the publication of this article and none of them resulted in a link between any vaccine and the likelihood of a child developing autism.

Natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity, right? Wrong. While your immune system may pick up a small resistance to illness after exposure and recovery, the risks for relying on natural immunity are far greater than receiving the vaccines themselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you wanted to gain immunity to measles, for example, by contracting the disease, you would face a 1 in 500 chance of death from your symptoms. In contrast, the number of people who have had severe allergic reactions from an MMR vaccine is less than 1 in 1 million.

With the fall season quickly approaching, many people will begin to receive a flu vaccination for the 2016-17 flu season. As a physician, I often get asked if a flu vaccine is necessary, and my answer is always “yes.” The flu is much more than a nuisance that makes you feel “under the weather” for a few days – it’s a serious disease that kills up to 500,000 people each year worldwide. Pregnant women, small children, elderly people in poor health and anyone with a chronic health condition are at a much higher risk for severe infection and even death if they contract the flu. In addition to health protection, avoiding the flu can help you to avoid extra medical care costs and loss of income due to missing days at work or school. 

Another concern to individuals surrounding vaccines is that they may become ill or have a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine. While some individuals may have an allergy due to a particular vaccine, there are alternatives to protecting yourself against disease. For example, individuals who are allergic to eggs may not be able to receive an egg-containing flu vaccine. As an alternative, there are egg-free vaccines available for use. If you know you have a certain allergy, discuss this with your physician prior to being vaccinated. Overall, most reactions to vaccines are very minor and may include a sore arm, redness around the injection site or a mild fever. It is much more probable that you or your child will become seriously ill from a vaccine-preventable disease rather than the vaccine itself.

If you believe that you or your child is due for a vaccine update, please contact your primary care provider or pediatrician. If you do not have a primary care provider or pediatrician for your child, please call 317.554.5200.

Nydia Nunez-Estrada, M.D.
Family Medicine
Eskenazi Health Center North Arlington