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    Immunizations and Vaccines

    Vaccine Myths and Misinformation continued...

    This leads some to ask, "Why am I giving my child a vaccine against a disease that doesn't even exist?"

    The answer is that it's the vaccines that keep these diseases so rare. Avoiding having your child immunized because of myths and misinformation about vaccine safety puts your child -- and public -- at risk. In communities where vaccine rates have dropped, these infectious diseases have quickly returned.

    Misconception #2: "The preservative thimerosal makes vaccines risky."

    Another concern about vaccines involves the use of a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal.

    Thimerosal has been used as a preserving agent in some vaccines and other products since the 1930s. According to the CDC, no harmful effects have been reported from the amount of thimerosal used in vaccines, other than expected minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site.

    However, in July 1999, the Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and vaccine manufacturers agreed to reduce or eliminate thimerosal in vaccines as a precautionary measure.

    It's important to note that since 2001, with the exception of some flu vaccines, no U.S. vaccines used to protect preschool children against infectious disease contain thimerosal as a preservative. A preservative-free version of the inactivated flu vaccine (containing trace amounts of thimerosal) is available.

    Misconception #3: "Vaccines cause autism."

    Because symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, a learning disorder, usually occur around the same time as the first measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and other immunizations in children, some have assumed that there is a link between thimerosal and autism.

    However, the MMR vaccines have never contained thimerosal, and neither have the vaccines for chickenpox or inactivated polio. In 2004, an Institutes of Medicine report concluded that there is no association between autism and vaccines that contained thimerosal as a preservative.

    Diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella can cause serious health problems, disabilities, and even death. Your children face a much greater risk from an infectious disease than they do from its vaccine.

    Immunizations and Bioterrorism

    Recent fears of a potential terrorist attack using a biological agent, such as anthrax or smallpox, have lead some to wonder if they need to be immunized against these diseases.

    Currently, the CDC believes that the risks to the general population are low and so hasn't made vaccinations for these diseases available to the public. The CDC, however, recommends immunization against these diseases for certain individuals that may be at high risk for exposure, such as lab workers or members of the military.


    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 31, 2016
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