Did you know this April 26th through May 3rd is National Immunization Week? It's a great time to boost awareness about immunizations and, of course, ensure that you and your loved ones are up to date on vaccinations.
In recent years, immunization has come under scrutiny, as many a protective parent has feared there's a link between vaccinations and human health issues such as autism. There's been so much back and forth about the topic that it seems hard to know just which course to take. What are a conscious parent and/or citizen to do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are the myths and truths surrounding immunizations:
Immunization Myth #1:
Vaccines contain dangerous amounts of mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde
It is true that trace amounts of aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde exist in vaccines; what's also true, however, is that these are all substances to which a baby is naturally, and frequently, exposed. Breast milk contains more aluminum and mercury than any vaccine. A baby's body produces 10 times more formaldehyde through natural metabolic processes than is found in any vaccine. And ethyl mercury, the type of mercury found in vaccines, is less likely to cause harm to the body than methyl mercury, the mercury found in nature.
Immunization Myth #2:
No one needs vaccines because the diseases for which we vaccinate have all been wiped out!
Truth: More than one developed country has decreased its immunization usage in response to the apparent disappearance of numerous diseases, only to see those vaccine-preventable diseases come back with a vengeance. This proves that continuous vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases is a necessity, even in developed countries with excellent sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition.
Immunization Myth #3:
The Thimerosal preservative and mercury in vaccines cause autism
Truth: There's an infamous 1998 study at the root of the Thimerosal-mercury-autism myth. It was conducted by Andrew Wakenfield, and subsequently found to be so flawed and unethical that Wakenfield was actually prevented from practicing medicine in Britain. Since then, multiple studies have shown no link between the Thimerosal preservative, which contains mercury, and autism. Nevertheless, just to assuage parent's fears (and not for any scientific reasons), Thimerosal has been pulled from most vaccines.
Immunization Myth #4:
Too many vaccinations at once can damage a child's developing immune system
Truth: Kids make contact with numerous foreign antigens every day in the form of food, water, air, and dirt. Many of these antigens are the same ones found in vaccines. Just as a typical day of play doesn't damage a child's immune system, so have multiple studies shown that simultaneous immunizations are safe. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both recommend the simultaneous administration of immunizations when appropriate because the data has shown again and again that this practice not present danger to the immune system or increase the risk of side effects. However, if a parent decides to split up the immunizations to occur over more frequent visits, that is an option.
Immunization Myth #5:
Vaccines cause many harmful side effects
Truth: Most vaccine side effects amount to a sore arm or, at worst, a mild fever. Some possible side effects are serious, but those ones are also extremely rare. The risks associated with choosing not to vaccinate are more serious than those associated with vaccinating.
Take some time to explore the facts. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
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