Vaccines are widely considered one of the greatest inventions of mankind.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines prevented over 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015, and many millions more were protected from illness.

Despite this, there are growing anti-vaccination and vaccine hesitancy movements in Western countries.

Among other problems, these movements caused significant measles outbreaks in the United States, where the potentially deadly virus was once considered eliminated.

There is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about vaccines that contribute to this growing problem. Here are the facts behind some of the most common vaccine myths.

Myth 1: You can delay routine vaccinations until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Adult vaccines and childhood vaccines are essential for maintaining health and wellness.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend staying up-to-date on routine vaccinations during the pandemic.

Delaying vaccination can be harmful to your health and the health of your community.

In-person care is available across the state at University of Maryland Medical System hospitals and practices during the pandemic. Find out what we're doing to keep patients safe.

Myth 2: Vaccines can make you sick.

Vaccines will not make you sick.

Some people can experience mild side effects from some vaccines, such as soreness at the injection site or a low-grade fever, but they dissipate quickly. According to WHO, serious side effects from vaccines rarely occur. In fact, many adverse effects are so rare that their risk cannot be accurately assessed statistically.

Myth 3: Vaccines contain toxic ingredients.

Dosage is everything when it comes to toxicity.

Any substance—even water—can be toxic in large doses. Some vaccines contain ingredients like formaldehyde and aluminum, but these trace amounts are so small that they're not considered toxic or harmful.

The gelatin and egg proteins featured in some flu vaccines can cause allergic reactions in very rare cases. Those affected typically have a history of severe allergies to gelatin or eggs. If you have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, talk to your doctor or the person administering your vaccine.

Myth 4: Vaccines can overload your immune system.

Children often require a lot of vaccinations within a short period of time. Luckily, there is no need to worry.

The immune system is resilient and isn't negatively affected by receiving simultaneous vaccines. There's also no evidence that spacing out vaccines is safer for children. In fact, delaying childhood vaccinations can cause community outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles or chickenpox. A 2015 study showed that only 1% of pediatricians thought vaccines should be spread out.

Myth 5: Natural immunity is healthier and more effective than vaccine-induced immunity.

Vaccines allow you to build immunity without the damaging effects that vaccine-preventable diseases can have.

These diseases can cause serious health problems and even be life-threatening. For example, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) can cause intellectual disability and measles can lead to death. All of these effects can be avoided by simply getting vaccinated.

When administered properly and in the recommended quantities, all vaccines provide you with the protection that you need. In some cases, a single natural infection can invoke a greater immune response than a single vaccine, which is why some vaccines require multiple doses. However, this makes no difference when it comes to preventing infection.

Myth 6: If everyone around me is immune, then I don't need to be vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated is like wearing a mask – it isn't just about protecting you, but also your community.

Most vaccine-preventable diseases spread through person-to-person contact. When one person in a community gets the disease, it can easily spread to other people. The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer chances a disease has to spread.

Myth 7: We don't get vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

Diseases that were once common in the United States, like measles or polio, are now rare or even eliminated completely because generations of people were vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities.

In our globalized world, the potential exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases is only a plane ride away. As the coronavirus pandemic has painfully reminded us, if one country has an outbreak, it's the world's concern. In all of human history, smallpox is the only disease to be eradicated from the plant completely.

Failing to get vaccinated can put yourself and your entire community at risk.

Myth 8: The flu vaccine protects you against COVID-19.

There is no evidence to support the claim that the flu vaccine protects against coronavirus.

However, it's still important to get both of these vaccines. In fact, getting your flu vaccine is even more important in 2020. If you fail to get your flu vaccine, you could potentially be infected with coronavirus and the flu at the same time, putting strain on both your health and our health care system.

Myth 9: Vaccines can cause autism.

Vaccines don't cause autism.

This claim stems from a discredited and retracted study that linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. Unfortunately, this flawed study has kicked off a resilient storm of misinformation.

Hundreds of studies across the globe have shown time and time again that there is no connection, but a 2016 national study revealed 16.5% of parents or primary caregivers of autistic children believed vaccines caused their child's autism.

Myth 10: Vaccines are used to microchip people.

The internet can be beneficial for learning more about your health, but it can also be fertile ground for misinformation -- particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are some claims that vaccines are or will be used to microchip people so they can be tracked or controlled through 5G cell phone towers. This is not only false, but impossible. Evidence suggests that this conspiracy theory was spread by people seeking to sow disinformation and confusion among Americans.

There are ways to find reliable health information online, but the best thing to do if you have questions about your health is to speak to a doctor.

Reviewed 12/16/2020

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