Debunking Immunization Myths

1. Do vaccines cause autism?
No. There is no evidence of a link between any vaccine and autism or autistic disorders.

Furthermore, there is no association between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. A single study, which was poorly designed and already discredited, reported such an association in 1998. Since then, hundreds of well-designed studies have confirmed that there is no risk of autism from vaccination.


2. Do vaccines contain dangerous and toxic ingredients?
No. While the ingredients in the labels of vaccines can look intimidating, (e.g. mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde) they are usually found naturally in the body, the food we eat, and the environment around us - for example, in tuna. The amounts in vaccines are very small and will not “poison” or harm the body.

Additionally, vaccines are tested and go through rigorous and lengthy scientific trials as well as certification processes with WHO and national regulatory agencies to ensure that they are safe and effective. Vaccines offered in public clinics are just as safe and effective as those offered in private.


3. Do I need to be vaccinated if vaccine-preventable diseases are rare or don´t exist in my country?
Yes, you should get all vaccines recommended as part of your country´s national immunization programs. Although vaccine-preventable diseases have become uncommon in many countries – thanks to vaccination - the viruses and bacteria that cause them continue to circulate in some parts of the world. They don’t respect borders and can infect anyone who is not protected.

Vaccination is the best way to stop vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading and reach community immunity – also known as herd immunity - which occurs when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely. As a result, the entire community is protected, even those who are not themselves immune. This protects individuals who cannot be vaccinated, like those who are immunocompromised or are very young, because the vaccinated people form a barrier that breaks the chain of transmission before the disease reaches the unvaccinated.

Successful immunization programs, like successful societies, depend on the cooperation of every individual to ensure the good of all.


4. Do vaccines have damaging and long-term side-effects?
No. Vaccines go through lengthy and rigorous processes to make sure that they are safe and are continuously monitored for safety issues. The risk of long-term effects from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio is much greater.

Some people might experience mild short-term side effects to vaccination, including pain at the injection site, low-grade fever, malaise, or rash. Although they may be uncomfortable for a short period of time, they are not serious and mean the immune system is practicing how it will fight the virus or bacteria if exposed.


5. If clean water and good hand washing stop diseases from spreading, do I need to get vaccinated?
Yes. While better hygiene, hand washing and clean water help protect people from infectious diseases, many others can spread through other means regardless of how clean a person or their surroundings are. If people are not vaccinated against diseases we have managed to control, such as polio and measles, these will quickly reappear.


6. Are vaccine-preventable diseases just an unfortunate part of life?
No, vaccine-preventable diseases do not have to be “facts of life.” Illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella are serious and can lead to severe complications in both children and adults, including pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, blindness, diarrhea, ear infections, congenital rubella syndrome (if a woman becomes infected with rubella in early pregnancy), and death. All these diseases and suffering can be prevented with vaccination. Failure to vaccinate against these diseases leaves children unnecessarily vulnerable.

Likewise, it is always better to get vaccinated than to try to build immunity by getting sick. Vaccines are tested to ensure that our bodies develop a proper immune response that helps us fight off the viruses and bacteria that cause disease. Choosing to skip vaccination in favor of getting a disease is always extremely risky.


7. Will giving a child more than one vaccine at a time overload their immune system?
No. The scientific evidence shows that giving children several vaccines at the same time has no adverse effect on their immune systems.

Children are exposed to different substances that trigger immune responses every day. A child is exposed to far more antigens from a common cold or sore throat than they are from vaccines. Eating food can introduce new antigens into the body, and several bacteria live in the mouth and nose.

On the other hand, there are actually many key advantages of getting several vaccines at once:

fewer clinic visits;
children are more likely to complete their recommended vaccinations on time;
combined vaccination (e.g. pentavalent vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Hib) means fewer injections.


8. Can vaccines contain microchips that enable governments or others in power to track immunized people?
No. This is impossible. Absolutely no vaccines – including the vaccines against COVID-19 when they become available – contain any microchips, including one that would let governments or any other entities in power track people.


9. Can pregnant people get vaccinated?
Yes. Not only can pregnant women get vaccinated against several vaccine-preventable diseases, such as influenza, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B, it is also extremely important that they do so to protect themselves and their babies from unnecessary disease and complications.

Some vaccines, such as the MMR and chickenpox vaccine, should not be given to pregnant people, but could be given before or after pregnancy. Pregnant people are encouraged to ask their health care providers at their prenatal checkups about what vaccines they need and when.


10. Does the vaccine against HPV encourage risky sexual behavior for adolescents who receive it?
No, multiple studies have shown that girls who are vaccinated against HPV are not more likely to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age.