The other day, I was talking about childhood vaccinations with a friend of mine. She’d just had a letter inviting her to take her son for his shots and she was worried about whether or not she should take him. She’d heard bad things about the vaccine and was worried it might do him more harm than good.
I have to admit, I was very worried when I had my eldest vaccinated. The news was full of stories at the time about children who had become very ill when they’d had their vaccines and I put off getting him injected for a while until one day he had a rash, and I suddenly panicked that he was going to be ill and it was all my fault. It turned out to be just a virus but that scare persuaded me to take him for his shots, and since then I’ve taken all of my children for all their vaccines.
That said, I understand why some parents have concerns and why some choose not to get their kids vaccinated. I wish doctors would be more understanding about why parents are worried. I got told off by my family doctor when we finally took my son along for his vaccinations and that made me feel really cross.
There are lots of pros and cons about vaccination, and it is struggling to know what is a myth and what is the truth that leads to fewer parents taking up the offer of childhood vaccination for their little ones.
Vaccinations can save lives. Everyone knows that. Vaccines prevent between 2 million and 3 million child deaths every year worldwide. They can also protect others in the community who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons.
Some children have bad reactions to vaccines and may even have very severe or life-threatening responses which could affect them for life.
There are some misconceptions about vaccines that lead to confusion.
Having a lot of vaccines will cause children to have an overwhelmed immune system. Children get as many as 23 shots in 2 years, and so it’s no surprise that a lot of parents are worried about the number they receive. Yet evidence has shown that children’s bodies can cope just fine and in fact, it would be possible for healthy children to get as many as 100,00 vaccines all at the same time and still be ok.
Children don’t need to be vaccinated as long as other children are. While there is a little truth in this, it is still usually best for all children to be vaccinated as at least 95% of people need to be vaccinated in order for the rest of the community to be protected from disease.
Vaccines aren’t really necessary now that most major illnesses have been wiped out. This isn’t really true either. Even though most children are vaccinated, there are still outbreaks of serious diseases like whooping cough and measles and some children can die from these infections. Diseases can also be spread when travelling or from people who have come from overseas.
Vaccines cause medical problems like autism. This is the worry that many parents have about some vaccines, however expert evidence has shown that there isn’t a proven link.