Childhood Vaccines: Myths, Misconceptions and the Important Health Benefits

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:23 AM

With so much conflicting information circling Internet about vaccines and whether they are safe or unsafe for children, especially via social media and blogs, Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, reminds us why childhood vaccines are so important and addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions that parents encounter online:

“I love being a general pediatrician because of the unique privilege I have of getting to know families in a meaningful way and seeing the children in those families grow up over weeks, months and years. There is no greater reward than helping a child become and then stay happy and healthy. To that end, it is my goal to not only treat a child’s illness and address immediate problems, but, more importantly, to prevent illness whenever possible. That’s why I’m so passionate about immunization for my patients and my own loved ones.” 

Should I have my child vaccinated? Why?
The simple answer: to prevent your child from contracting life-threatening illnesses. Vaccines have been incredibly successful at reducing the prevalence of diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, meningitis and chicken pox, but these diseases have not been completely eradicated, especially in other parts of the world. We live in a global society, and thanks in part to lapses in vaccine rates throughout the U.S., we are seeing a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in our country. The ability of vaccination to reduce the incidence of disease depends on herd immunity, meaning the vaccination of a significant portion of the population. So, if children are vaccinated, that provides protection for everyone in the community, including those receiving chemotherapy for cancer who are unable to receive the inoculations themselves.  

Vaccination Schedule for Infants & Children 

  • Birth: HBV (Hepatitis B)
  • 1-2 months: HBV second dose
  • 2 months: DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), IPV (Inactivated poliovirus), PCV (Pneumoccoccal conjugate), Rota (Rotavirus)
  • 4 months: DTaP, Hib, IPV, PCV, Rota
  • 6 months: DTap, Hib, PCV, Rota
  • 6 months and annually: Influenza
  • 6-18 months: HBV, IPV
  • 12-15 months: Hib, MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella), PCV, Chickenpox
  • 15-18 months: DTaP
  • 4-6 years: DTaP, MMR, IPV, Varicella
  • 11-12 years: HPV, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria pertussis booster), Meningococcal vaccine and then a booster at 16

Do vaccines cause autism?
No. Vaccines, especially the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, were inaccurately linked to the rise in autism rates. This claim, which grew from Andrew Wakefield’s small (only 12 subjects) and now discredited 1998 case report, has been disproven in large-scale studies.

Another reason that MMR may have been linked to autism is due to the timing of the vaccine, which is administered between 12 and 15 months of age. Autism also begins to present itself around 12 months when affected children do not meet social and language skills milestones.  But it has been proven repeatedly in large-scale studies that there is no link between vaccines, including the MMR, and autism.  

Are vaccines “too much” for children’s immune systems?
Our immune systems, including those of babies and children, are exposed to tens of thousands of foreign substances (i.e., antigens) every single day, which is significantly higher (1000-fold) than what children are exposed to in a vaccine. Administering multiple vaccines at the same appointment is both safe and effective. Combining vaccines into one visit also leads to fewer appointments and, more importantly, fewer tears.

Are preservatives in vaccines harmful?
Preservatives (the purpose of which are to keep vaccines hygienic and free from bacteria) and stabilizers in vaccines have also been proven in many large, controlled studies to cause no harm.  Babies are exposed to larger amounts of preservatives in their natural environment, including preservatives transferred from mother to baby in breast milk.

What about “alternative”, “slow”, or “delayed” vaccine schedules?
No. The medical community (The Centers for Disease Control, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Institute of Medicine, The American Medical Association) advocates following the Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons 0-6. This schedule has been specifically designed, researched, and tested to be the safest and most effective way to immunize children. Deviation from this schedule leaves children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and illnesses like whooping cough, meningitis, measles and more, all of which can be life-threatening. 

Where can I go to read reliable information about vaccines?
Your child’s pediatrician is the best person to come to with any questions, concerns or the recommended schedule of vaccinations. The following are links to reputable organizations and studies for more information:

  1. Summaries of numerous studies on vaccine safety, including those referenced in this post.
  2. The CDC on Basics and Common Questions   
  3. Every Child By Two
  5. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ parent website
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