Myths and facts about vaccinations
Find out what's right and what's wrong when it comes to vaccinations. Keep reading for more information...
Myths and facts about vaccinations
You've all heard how important vaccinations are to protect our children against potentially dangerous diseases.
You also might have heard plenty of myths about the supposed dangers of vaccines, which may have had you think twice when it comes to vaccinating your kids.
All this information about vaccines can be quite confusing.
So we spoke to Dr Wong Kae Thong, a General Practitioner who has a special interest in women’s and children’s health, to help separate the myths from the facts about vaccinations.
Myth 1: A child's immune system could be overwhelmed if they are given several shots of different vaccines at one go. FALSE.
Fact: Studies have shown that the efficacy and rates for adverse reactions of administering different vaccines simultaneously are similar to those observed when the vaccines are administered separately.
It is a myth that our immune system would be overwhelmed by multiple vaccines.
Nevertheless, if different live vaccines are not administered on the same day, a minimum interval of 4 weeks is required to minimise risk of interference.
Myth 2: Vaccines cause developmental side effects such as autism. FALSE.
Fact: The simple answer is no, they do not. Over the years, people have been concerned about the association of vaccines with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In 1998, it was the MMR vaccine controversy, of which further investigation has shown no association between ASD and the MMR vaccine.
Thimerosal, a common vaccine ingredient, was believed to be associated with ASD. In 2001 thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in almost all childhood vaccines.
However, there is no reduction in the incidence of ASD. The evidence favours that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.
In recent years, parents have been concerned that too many vaccines too soon may lead to autism.
However, a study in 2013 shows that the total amount of antigens from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD, de-bunking this theory too.
Myth 3: Vaccines are unnecessary because better hygiene and sanitation will make diseases go away. FALSE.
Fact: While it's true that better hygiene, hand washing and clean water help protect people from many diseases, they won't make infectious diseases go away.
The diseases you vaccinate your child against will return if vaccination programmes are stopped. What's more, if people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon, such as polio and measles, will quickly reappear.
Myth 4: Influenza is just a version of the common cold and the flu vaccine isn't very effective. FALSE.
Fact: Influenza is actually a very serious disease that, according to the World Health Organization, kills 300,000 to 500,000 people worldwide every year. Among those at risk are pregnant women and small children.
Vaccinating pregnant women has the added benefit of protecting their newborns (there is currently no vaccine for babies under six months).
The flu vaccine offers immunity to the 3 most prevalent strains circulating in any given season. Avoiding the flu means avoiding extra medical care costs and lost income from missing days of work or school.
Myth 5: As long as other kids are getting vaccinated, mine don't need vaccinations. FALSE.
Fact: Skipping vaccinations puts your baby at greater risk for potentially life-threatening diseases. It also puts other kids at risk of catching severe illnesses if they are exposed to your child, and they have not been vaccinated themselves for whatever reason.
Myth 6: My baby might get the disease the vaccine is supposed to prevent. FALSE.
Fact: Most vaccines that are given today contain killed vaccines and not live agents that could replicate in your child's system.
A few vaccines, however, contain live weakened virus to provoke an immune response. These include the MMR and chicken pox immunisations, and may cause fever or a rash. But this reaction is much less severe than if a child naturally contracted measles or chicken pox.
Myth 7: Many diseases are virtually eliminated, so vaccines are not necessary. FALSE.
Fact: Some may tell you that vaccine-preventable diseases have almost been eliminated in Singapore, and because the risk of exposure to such diseases is so minimal, vaccination is unnecessary.
The truth is that vaccination rates still need to be kept high to protect the wider community, especially those vulnerable like pregnant women and young children.
When a significant proportion of individuals in a population are protected against a disease through vaccination, people who are still susceptible to the disease are indirectly protected as they are less likely to come into contact with someone with the disease or infection.
This effect is known as ‘herd immunity’. However, for herd immunity to be effective, vaccination rates among the population have to be high.
Another point to consider is that while many vaccine-preventable diseases are rarely seen in Singapore, they are still common in many other countries. So if you travel to one of these countries, there is a risk that you could bring those diseases back home.
Myth 8: Vaccines can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. FALSE.
Fact: The incidence of SIDS peaks when a baby is around 2 months of age, which is the age when babies receive the combined vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP).
This apparent ‘association’ between the timing of vaccination and SIDS deaths has been examined to determine whether there is a link between the 2.
However, many studies conducted over the last 20 years have found that the number of SIDS deaths associated in time with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to occur by chance and irrespective of vaccination.
theAsianparent.com would like to thank Dr Wong Kae Thong for her valuable input to this article.
Parents, do share your opinion on vaccination with us by leaving a comment... we would love to hear from you!