Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Myths Busted: 3 answers to vaccine questions

Immunizations are critically important for several reasons. They slow down the rapid spread of disease through communities; they reduce the costly impact or death associated with contracting the disease; and they provide a way of protecting future generations. 

Yet, myths about vaccines still remain. Learn the truth behind a few of the most common:

Myth: My children’s friends are vaccinated, so they will be protected by “herd immunity.”

Herd immunity, otherwise known as community immunity, means that most members are protected from a disease (including those who are not eligible for certain vaccines) because most of the members of the community are protected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses an analogy of a car pool to explain why this is a myth:

"This is like riding in a car pool where everyone contributes each month to pay for gas, repairs to the car, etc.; and one morning a new guy shows up and says, ‘I think I’ll ride along with you. But I’m not going to pay, since you’re going downtown anyway and you have an empty seat.’”

Experts warn that if we stop vaccinating, outbreaks of diseases that are almost under control could stage a major comeback. 

Myth: My child can get a disease from a vaccine.

Vaccines almost never cause disease. Most contain inactivated (dead) virus, which can’t cause disease. With live vaccines, children may present mild symptoms, like spots after a chickenpox vaccine, but these symptoms are not harmful. A full-blown illness is very unlikely.

Myth: Most of these diseases are gone and post no risk to my child. 

Diseases that used to be more commonplace such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, rubella (German measles)mumps, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles can now be prevented — and in some cases have been eliminated — due to immunizations. For example, the current measles outbreak that began in California and the current outbreak in Germany have been linked to low MMR vaccination rates, and experts warn that additional outbreaks can be expected in the U.S. and abroad. The recent resurgence of pertussis (whooping cough), especially in California, has also been linked to low vaccination rates for DTaP or TDaP vaccines.

Vaccines protect our community by providing herd immunity and protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, such as the very young, the immune-compromised and the elderly. If not for vaccines, more people would get sick, putting our children at greater risk of illness and possibly death. Finally, vaccinations do not just protect us; they protect future generations from having to suffer the serious effects of certain diseases.

Sources: Lindsay Thompson, M.D., the staff of UF College of Medicine department of pediatrics., the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention

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Amanda Austin

Social Media Coordinator

Amanda manages UF Health's Facebook and Twitter accounts, and curates information about healthy and wellness, health industry news, and updates on UF Health research....Read More