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The truth about vaccines

Michele M. Cooper, MD
The truth about vaccines

Some social media groups and celebrities say vaccines pose a danger to you and your family. But in fact, the opposite is true. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently named vaccine hesitancy—skipping vaccines because of doubts about them—as one of the biggest threats to global health.

Don’t fall for the hype. Vaccines protect you, your children, and your community from many deadly diseases. Here are the straight facts about immunization.

Myth: Vaccines don’t work—and may even make people sick.

Truth: Because they’re given to healthy people, vaccines have very high safety standards. Most side effects are minor—say, a sore arm or mild fever—and go away quickly.

Vaccines are made with weak or dead germs, so they can’t give you the flu, measles, or other diseases. Rarely, serious side effects do occur. But the risk of getting very sick, or even dying, from those illnesses is far higher.

In fact, that’s one of the main ways we know vaccines work. They’ve saved millions of lives and wiped out diseases like smallpox altogether.

Myth: Vaccines cause autism or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Truth: Kids get vaccines against 14 diseases during their first two years. That’s also when health problems such as autism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) arise.

Because of the timing, parents may wonder if vaccines are responsible. However, experts have conducted multiple large studies and found no links.

The one exception—a flawed research study saying the measles, mumps, and rubella shot led to autism—was retracted. And the doctor who published it lost his license.

Myth: Giving kids too many shots at once overloads their immune system.

Truth: Pediatricians and other experts work together each year to develop vaccine schedules. They base recommendations on the latest data about children’s immune systems at different ages. So the guidelines are carefully timed to offer the most protection.

And remember, children are exposed to thousands of live germs during daily life. That’s far more than the dead or inactivated ones received through vaccines. Immunization boosts, rather than suppresses, their immune systems.

Myth: It’s better to get exposed to a disease than get immunity from a shot.

Truth: Getting a disease may give you future protection from illness. But with a vaccine, you can avoid getting sick—and the complications that come with it.

In the 2019-2020 season, as many as 740,000 people were hospitalized and 62,000 people died from flu alone. More widespread flu shots may have prevented many of these illnesses and made others less severe.

Myth: Most parents are opting out of vaccination.

Truth: People questioning vaccines are a vocal minority. Most parents choose to protect their children, and everyone else, by getting shots as recommended. Taking this important step for your family’s health puts you in good company.

About Dr. Cooper

Dr. Michele Cooper specializes in Internal Medicine at Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. After earning her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Dr. Cooper completed her residency in Internal Medicine at LSU Hospitals and Clinics.