Vaccination myths busted

Posted on 12 March 2020

Whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is one of the biggest questions many parents grapple with. We bust 6 common vaccination myths below.


1. “Children with an egg allergy should not have a measles vaccine”

Data suggests that anaphylactic reactions to measles- and mumps-containing vaccines are not associated with hypersensitivity to egg antigens but rather to other components of the vaccines (such as gelatin). Children with egg allergies should be fully vaccinated, including the measles vaccine. A contra-indication to the vaccine is an anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.

2. “The combination MMR vaccine causes autism”

This myth is based on a study on 12 children, which was found to be seriously flawed – and several very large independent studies on collectively millions of children have subsequently found no association between MMR and autism.

3. “Thimerosal in vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine, causes autism”

Live vaccines, of which MMR is one, do not contain preservatives as this would inactivate the vaccine. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that is found in very few vaccines today. There is no evidence to support any link between thimerosal and autism.

4. “If your child is on an antibiotic, you must not administer a vaccine”

Antibiotics would only interfere with a live bacterial vaccine (and the only one in South Africa is BCG), as antibiotics have no effect on viruses or killed, inactivated vaccines. However, if your child is acutely ill, it is preferable to defer vaccination.

5. “Giving too many vaccines at one time will overload the system”

Scientific evidence shows that giving several vaccines at the same time has no adverse effect on your child’s immune system. Children are exposed to several hundred foreign substances that trigger an immune response every day. The simple act of eating food introduces new antigens into the body, and numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose. Your child is exposed to far more antigens from a common cold or sore throat than they are from vaccines.

6. “True immunity can only be obtained through natural immunity”

Vaccines suppress the immune system. A vaccine contains either the whole causative organism (either killed or weakened so that it can’t cause disease), or noninfectious parts of the organism, and thus interacts with the immune system to produce an immune response similar to that produced by the natural infection. Immunoglobulins, on the other hand, do not stimulate the immune system and provide passive immunity which is only temporary.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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