Don’t Be Distracted by Vaccine Myths and Misinformation
May 07, 2014

Vaccine advocates often wonder whether participating in discussions with those who vehemently oppose vaccines is helpful to our cause of advancing immunization education.  On the one hand, we don’t want misinformation to go unchecked.  But on the other hand, we can’t help but wonder whether these “debate style” conversations are effective at discrediting vaccine critics or if they inadvertently provide them with more attention than they deserve.

Infographic from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Infographic from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Unfortunately, when appearing on a television or radio interview alongside someone who is opposed to vaccinations, the very same scientific evidence that proves vaccines to be safe and effective is typically what makes our communication tasks so challenging.  The scientific facts and overwhelming evidence that favors vaccinations must be articulated in a way that people can appreciate and understand. This can prove to be rather difficult based on the diversity of our audiences.  Conversely, if one wants to discredit vaccines, all they have to do is allude to a few myths that help create fear and doubt which provides great strides in obstructing the message that vaccines are beneficial and save lives.

The reality is that their objective is much easier to achieve than ours.  They can make things up.  They can evoke irrational fear and they have become masters at playing upon our emotions.  They can claim they’ve done their research, yet fail to provide one single shred of evidence.  All they need to do is introduce a doubt and people begin to put parental intuition above proven science.   We, on the other hand, are asking people to appreciate the science they often fail to understand, and have faith in experts who they have never heard of, nor will ever meet.

As hard as it may be to counter the elaborate myths and misinformation about vaccines, there are countless healthcare professionals, immunization experts and public health advocates who continue to work hard everyday to ensure that accurate information is available to the public.  They refer people to credible sources that reference verifiable scientific findings.  They inform people through books, medical publications, websites, PSAs, and in comments on vaccine related articles.  They even share information on various social media platforms that alert people to the latest research findings and information about dangerous outbreaks.

While there is an abundance of immunization news that is researched, reported and read each day (which you can receive by signing up for Every Child By Two’s Daily Clips here), there is also a lot of misinformation that continues to circulate as well.  Thankfully there are journalists and medical professionals who continue to combat the misinformation on television, in print publications and even on the radio.

Today we highlight an article that is especially relevant in the fight against vaccine misinformation. Dr. Vincent Iannelli has published a post on Pediatrics that serves as a timeless and comprehensive guide that refutes the 40 most common vaccine myths.  It is entitled Anti-Vaccine Myths and Misinformation and it provides a thorough investigation of vaccine related concerns while also including dozens of links that will allow readers to further research various aspects of immunizations.  

The concerns addressed include the following:    

1. Vaccines cause autism.
2. No one else is at risk if I don’t vaccinate my kids.
3. Shedding after vaccines gets people sick.
4. Most people who get sick during outbreaks are vaccinated.
5. Vaccines don’t really work.
6. Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t really that serious.
7. Big Pharma.
8. Vaccines contain more mercury now than ever.
9. A selective or alternative immunization schedule is safer.
10. Many people don’t vaccinate their kids.
11.  Vaccines are made with aborted fetal tissue.
12.  Too many too soon – overloading the immune system.
13.  Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccination.
14.  Vaccines are not rigorously tested before being approved by the FDA.
15.  Herd immunity is not real.
16.  I use PubMed to do my vaccine research.
17.  10 vaccines in the 1980s ballooned into 36 in 2008 and into 49 now.
18.  Package inserts.
19.  More vaccines are linked to higher infant mortality rates.
20.  Most adults aren’t up to date on boosters.
21.  Sick people should just stay home.
22.  The media is just scaring people about measles and whooping cough.
23.  You can not sue if your child is injured by a vaccine.
24.  Vaccines go against some or most religions.
25.  Most vaccine side effects aren’t reported by doctors.
26.  Many experts are against vaccines.
27.  Vaccinated kids are the cause of most outbreaks.
28.  Vaccines cause shaken baby syndrome.
29.  The chicken pox vaccine is creating a surge in shingles cases.
30.  The U.S. gives more vaccines than other developed countries.
31.  The anti-vax movement is growing.
32.  Vaccines aren’t tested together.
33.  I’m pro-safe vaccine. I’m not anti-vaccine.
34.  It is safer to wait until your kids are older before getting them vaccinated.
35.  Vaccine court has paid out billions to vaccine-injured children.
36.  Vaccines are creating resistance in viruses and bacteria.
37.  Unvaccinated kids are healthier than vaccinated kids.
38.  People didn’t use to worry about vaccine-preventable diseases.
39.  One more study.
40.   The one-size fits all immunization schedule.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with this article so that you can refer to it in the future.  And let us know what you think are the most effective ways to combat vaccine misinformation, both in print and broadcast media and online.


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