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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25 responses to “Don’t Be Distracted by Vaccine Myths and Misinformation”

  1. Courtney says:

    Talk about misinformation on the “About” Anti-Vaccine Myths and Misinformation article. Some of it is so obvious I don’t know how Dr. Vincent can get away with it.

  2. Lawrence says:

    Great information that combines that best available online info with published studies that show how empty the anti-vax position is. I have this bookmarked & will refer to it as needed.


  3. Lawrence says:

    @Courtney – if you take issue with anything posted, I would hope that you would provide specific items that are inaccurate…..

  4. Courtney says:

    So much I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

    The good Doc isn’t entirely honest on many of his proclamations and he evokes fear mongering at its finest. Some of it is so bad, that people will see right through it and it will end up hurting his cause, not helping it. It only takes one mistake and then most will throw out the whole thing. He would have been better off being more truthful with his information.

  5. novalox says:


    So then, please list the specific issues and areas where you think the doctor is inaccurate , as well as the topics that you feel is fear-mongering, along with the scientific evidence that will support your views, instead of nonspecific bluster and vague accusations.

  6. Wendy says:

    You say that herd immunity exists. Please provide evidence that a 98% vaccination rate prevents the unvaccinated from contracting the disease.

  7. Chris says:

    Wendy, please cite the reference to the “98%” and directly quote where you found that number.

  8. Lawrence says:

    @Wendy – well, given that herd immunity can actually be expressed as part of simple mathematical equations, you haven’t really put a lot of thought into it…..but even more simply – if a large potion (say 90 – 95% +) of a given population are immune to a disease – either by having contracting the disease in the past (pre-vaccination times) or vaccinated, there is only a very small chance that disease exposure to any one individual will result in infection (i.e. the exposed individual will most likely be one that is already immune).

    There will also be insufficient susceptible hosts for said disease to spread, acting as a firebreak. Of course, there is also a very small chance that an unvaccinated person will contract the disease, but again, due to the overall level of immunity, the disease will be unable to spread beyond that person (or small group – since unvaccinated do tend to cluster).

    There are also times when enough unvaccinated individuals exist that should a outbreak occur, it can be possible for enhanced person-to-person transmission (a breakdown in herd immunity) and a larger number of people could become infected. In extreme cases (such as what happened in the UK) enough unvaccinated individuals exist that the disease (in this case measles) can continue to circulate in the population and become endemic – only increased vaccination rates can end this cycle.

    This isn’t rocket science Wendy, this is mathematics & simple logic as well (based on history, research, etc).

  9. JGC56 says:

    Wendy, herd immunity threshold is a calculated value adn will differe from disease to disease depending on how readily taht disease is transmissable on a population.

    Consider the two extreme situations, the first where no one in the poplation is immune and the second where veryone in the population is immune.

    In the first case, everyone exposed to the disease is infected, everyone infected serves as a vector of transmission, and ultimately everyone gets sick. In the second case, no one exposed to the disease is infected, no one infected serves as a vector of transmission, and no one gets sick.

    In between the extremes the probability of new infections is a function of how likely an susceptible and uninfected person is to encounter an infected person who transmits the disease to them. This can be modeled mathematically if we know a one value: the average number of people wome one with the disease will infect (call it R0).

    For the infection to be maintained we need at least 1 new person to be infected by someone already sick. If we designate S to be the proportion of the population susceptible to new infection, (those neither immune to nor already infected) we get

    R0 x S = 1

    If R0 x S is less than 1 the infection will die off, at 1 it’s sustained, above 1 it spreads and becomes epidemic.

    Next step: we designate the proportion of individuals who are not sick but are immune as H1, H1 + S = 1. Rearrange this to S = 1 – H1 and substitute for S in the first equation:

    R0 x (1 – H1) = 1

    Solve for H1:

    H1 = 1 – 1/R0

    There you have it. If on average an infected person will infect 10 other susceptible people, H1 = 1 – 1/10 = 0.9 which expressed as a per centage is 90%. The threshold for herd immunity for a disease where each nfected person on average infects 10 other poeple is 90%.

    Your 98% threshold represents a situation where each infected individuals will, on average, infect 50 other susceptible people.

  10. Homewerks One says:

    Avoid arguing details with pro-vaxxers. They are paid to argue incessant details ad nauseum. Form your own opinions. The science is bad, if needing trolls on social media to browbeat us into submission. As an example, watch what follows my comment.

  11. novalox says:


    Ah, the old pharma shill gambit, a sure sign that you have no argument and are reduced to libel and false accusations.

    So again, where is your evidence? Because you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,

    But please, keep on posting, for I want to see how many more wild and false accusations a simple troll like you can make.

  12. Lawrence says:

    One does not need to argue with one that provides not facts or evidence… wouldn’t be a fair fight.

  13. Homewerks One says:


  14. novalox says:


    Again, if you are not going to provide any evidence for your accusations, as well as making false statements, and are here just to troll, why should any person take you seriously?

  15. Homewerks One says:


  16. novalox says:


    Again, why should anyone take you seriously if you do not provide any actual evidence for your accusations.

    And thank you again for admitting that you are just a troll.

  17. novalox says:

    Back on topic, I’ve shown Dr. Vincent Iannelli’s link to the nurses and doctors at the hospital that I volunteer at as well as emailed it to a couple of my coworkers and friends.

    I think this is good information to help educate patients and students.

  18. Homewerks One says:

    😉 !

  19. Lawrence says:

    And even more good information for a real education:

  20. novalox says:


    Actually, the hospital that I am volunteering at has used the info contained within the form to help educate families on the importance of vaccinations.

    The info that I got from Dr. Ianelli that I shared with my friends and coworkers at the hospital has been helpful. One of the doctors there has printed it out and says that he will use it to educate families as well as other health care workers. He says that the patients have found the info to be very informative.

  21. Lawrence says:

    I also very much appreciate the information provided by Dr. Ianelli – good to see these myths and lies being taken head-on….

  22. Homewerks One says:

    😉 🙂

  23. Homewerks One says:

    Yep.. ad nauseum & on

  24. […] Don’t Be Distracted by Vaccine Myths and Misinformation […]

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