APU Diseases Health & Fitness Original

Vaccine Myths: The Medical Reasons Why They Are Not True

Vaccines have been proven to save many lives. As a result, getting vaccinated is much safer than getting sick.

However, there are numerous vaccine myths that vaccines are harmful. As a result, many children and adults neglect to get the vaccinations that could save their lives.

What Are Vaccines and How Do They Work?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “a vaccine is a preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases.” Basically, vaccines stimulate your body’s immune cells to make them produce antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to the disease-causing antigens – such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins – to remove them from your body.

There are six types of vaccines:

  • Live attenuated vaccines
  • Inactivated or killed vaccines
  • Toxoid vaccines
  • Subunit, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
  • Polyvalent vaccines
  • Combination vaccines

Each type of vaccine works slightly differently, depending upon the antigen it needs to eliminate.

The 5 Most Popular Vaccine Myths

Vaccine myths continue to exist because many people do not take the trouble to fact-check whether stories are actually true. In addition, social media sites have made it easy to spread misinformation about the effectiveness of vaccinations.

Fact checking, however, is a powerful way to debunking inaccurate messages. Here are five of the most popular vaccine myths and the medical explanations behind them.

Myth #1: Vaccines Contain Dangerous Amounts of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is used in the preparation of vaccines. It is used to inactivate the virus included in a manufactured vaccine and to detoxify bacterial toxins.

Although some formaldehyde residue can remain in the final version of a vaccine, the level of formaldehyde present is not dangerous. The acceptable residual amount of formaldehyde in vaccines for human use has been established by the World Health Organization.

Myth #2: Vaccines Will Always Produce Immunity

Vaccines commonly contain a weakened or dead form of a certain pathogen. In some cases, the vaccine might have a piece of a pathogen.

The active ingredient in vaccines is an antigen. An antigen might be in the form of:

  • Weak or dead bacteria
  • Weak or dead viruses
  • Pieces of a bacterium’s or a virus’s exterior surface or genetic material
  • A bacterial toxin that has been treated so that it becomes non-toxic

Vaccines work based on the immunological principle of antigen-antibody interaction. Introducing the vaccine into a child or an adult stimulates the body to develop its own defenses against a disease such as polio or measles.

The immunity that is created from getting vaccinated can often resist the bacteria or viruses that cause a disease, but the protection is never 100% perfect. Vaccines can be highly effective in preventing illness, but pathogens such as viruses can mutate over time.

The best strategy to boost the efficacy of vaccines is to increase the vaccination coverage rate in a target population. This strategy is helpful in achieving community immunity or herd immunity.

Myth #3: The Aluminum in Vaccines Poses a Significant Risk of an Allergic Reaction

Aluminum is integral to many vaccines; it is used to enhance the effectiveness of some vaccines.

Aluminum is also present in various liquids such as breast milk and formula, and many foods, but not at a harmful level.

Some people claim that the aluminum in vaccines can trigger an asthma attack. But there is no scientific evidence to prove this fact. According to medical researcher Sabrina Fernandez, “The latest statistical models for the absorption and elimination of both ingestible and injectable aluminum estimate that an infant’s total body burden of aluminum never exceeds the minimum risk level.”

Myth #4: Once Vaccinated, You Can No Longer Spread a Disease

Vaccines do not completely prevent infection, but they can reduce transmission, potentially leading to herd immunity. Herd immunity means that unvaccinated individuals are protected from infection by the vaccinated people around them.

Vaccinated individuals have a lower load of a disease-causing pathogen if they get infected, but that does not mean that they cannot transmit a pathogen to someone else. It simply means that the risk of transmitting the pathogen to someone else is reduced.

Myth #5: Vaccines Contain Aborted Babies

The claim that vaccines contain a significant amount of human fetal tissue from aborted babies is one of the unfortunate vaccine myths that still lingers in popular culture. Fetal cell lines – cells that are grown in a laboratory and are descended from individual fetal cells from two abortions that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s – are used as a medium for growing the viruses that are put into vaccines. However, modern vaccines do not contain recent fetal cells or fetal tissue.

Fetal cell lines are preferable for growing vaccine viruses since they permit cell growth in laboratories rather than a human womb. As a result, they cannot be infected by other viruses in the body.

It’s also important to note that the use of fetal cell lines is not limited to the development of vaccines. Fetal cell lines are also used to develop several common over-the-counter and prescribed medications, such as antacids and cold medicines.

Debunking Vaccine Myths Starts with Fact-Checking

Misinformation and disinformation regarding vaccine use and safety have negatively impacted the effective use of vaccines for preventable diseases. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of vaccines has eradicated smallpox and nearly eliminated the wild polio virus.

It’s important to use critical thinking and avoid believing everything that is said on social media without double-checking its validity. More resources about vaccine safety are available at:

Dr. Gudeta D. Fufaa is a practicing statistician and epidemiologist and has worked as a statistician, data manager and epidemiologist at various government institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and corporate America. Dr. Fufaa earned his Ph.D. in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology from Walden University, an M.S. in statistics from Uta State University and a B.S. in applied biology from Haramaya University, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.

Comments are closed.