When you search for info about vaccines, the Internet will give you plenty. But not everything you read is true. You’ll want to know what’s real and helpful, and what’s just false.
Myth: I got all my vaccines as a child, so I’m done with those shots.
Not so. “The immunity we get from vaccinations wanes over time,” says pediatrician Danelle Fisher, MD, of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
You may also have missed a dose of a vaccine as a child or were given an older, weaker version.
“If you can’t remember when you got your last vaccinations and were a baby or young child, talk to your doctor,” Fisher says. “It might be a great time to get a booster.”
Myth: I can’t get the flu vaccine because I’m allergic to eggs.
Yes, you can! There are egg-free versions of the flu vaccine for people 18 and older. Ask for them.
If that’s not available or you’re too young for the egg-free vaccine, and you’ve ever only had a mild reaction to eggs (such as hives), you can get the regular vaccine and just be monitored more closely afterward.
Myth: Older adults don’t need vaccines.
You never outgrow the need for a yearly flu vaccine. Plus, there are other vaccines that grown-ups need, including:
- The shingles vaccine, which is recommended for adults 60 and older.
- The two pneumococcal vaccines, which are recommended for people 65 and older. (People with certain medical conditions should get them earlier.)
You should also keep up with any boosters you need for protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis). Remember, with whooping cough, anyone who’s going to be around babies or young kids should get vaccinated to help protect those children.
Myth: Vaccines contain harmful levels of toxins.
Vaccines don’t have many other ingredients besides antigens. For instance, tiny amounts of formaldehyde and thimerosal (a preservative that has mercury in it) can be used to kill the virus when it’s being made. Aluminum is also sometimes used to help the vaccine work better.
“The amount [of these ingredients] is very small compared to what we expose ourselves to on a regular basis,” Fisher says. And there is no evidence these trace amounts build up in your body or cause problems down the road.