Saturday, November 03, 2007

Misconceptions About Immunizations

After many years of practicing medicine, there's not a lot that I hear in my office that surprises me. However, recently I met a patient who said that he had not received any of his vaccinations, not even the childhood ones. He was not from a remote corner of the world - he was from Santa Cruz California. It turns out his parents didn't believe in vaccines, and apparently this fear of vaccination is more common than I had realized.

Here are some clarifications of common misconceptions courtesy of Dr. Stephen Barrett which hopefully will help encourage proper health care for everyone. After all, even though many of you may be too young to remember it, where would we be without the polio vaccine.

Misconception #1: Because of better hygiene and sanitation, diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced.
Misconception #2: The majority of people who get the disease have been immunized.
Misconception #3: There are hot lots of vaccine that have been associated with more adverse events and deaths than others. Parents should find the numbers of these lots and not allow their children to receive vaccines from them.
Misconception #4: Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, and even death—and may cause long-term effects we don't even know about.
Misconception #5: DTP vaccine causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Misconception #6: Vaccine-preventable diseases have been virtually eliminated from the United States, so there is no need for my child to be vaccinated.
Misconception #7: Giving a child more than one vaccine at a time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system.
Misconception #8: There is no good reason to immunize against chickenpox (varicella) because it is a harmless disease.
Misconception #9: Vaccines cause autism.
Misconception #10: Hepatitis B vaccine causes chronic health problems, including multiple sclerosis.
Misconception #11: Thimerosal causes autism: Chelation therapy can cure it.

And while we're clearing up misconceptions, it should be noted that the flu "shot" does not cause the flu. The flu vaccine in the form of the nasal spray however is a live vaccine and may cause a mild case of runny nose and congestion.

3 comments:

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Katy Seib said...

It's great to see physicians stepping up to confront these misconceptions. I worry that it's going to take a lot of work to undo the PR damage that's been done. Whether pediatricians and GPs like it or not the responsibility will mostly fall to them to bridge the communication gap between immunization initiatives and patients as they (physicians) are usually the sole point of contact between the two. I keep hearing stories of doctors who belittle and scorn patients who question the vaccine schedule and process. This does nothing to convince patients otherwise and they are missing a very important opportunity to communicate the correct information. I realize it is very time consuming and maybe not even realistic to be both information broker and doctor, but hopefully with more and more reliable information available through modern media - like this site - it might be possible.

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