Immunisation Myths

A lot has been written on the subject of immunisation safety and it can sometimes be hard to distinguish fact from fiction with many immunisation myths doing the rounds.

The 5th edition of the “Immunisation Myths and Realities” booklet, launched by the Australian government, aims to support practitioners and parents with the latest research on immunisation and dispel some common myths.

As the report highlights:

“The safety of vaccines is very important as they are given to prevent disease, and immunisation programs are targeted at all or many members of the population, most of whom are healthy. Concerns about the manufacture and testing of vaccines mostly relate to the possibility that vaccines may contain toxic or harmful substances or biologic agents used in the manufacturing process.”

The most common immunisation concerns (which are also covered in the booklet) are:

Vaccine manufacture and testing

  • Vaccines are unsafe
  • Vaccines are not adequately tested
  • Vaccines contain foreign proteins
  • Vaccines are contaminated with foreign viruses
  • Vaccines contain toxic additives
  • Vaccines are cultured on cell lines from aborted fetuses

Immune system

  • Vaccines weaken or overwhelm the immune system
  • Immunisation is unnatural
  • Homeopathic preparations are an alternative to conventional vaccines
  • Specific immunity is not important for protection from disease
  • Vaccines cause or worsen asthma and allergies

Need for vaccination

  • Infectious diseases are not serious
  • Improved living standards, not vaccination, have reduced infectious diseases
  • Diseases are virtually eliminated so vaccination is not needed
  • Vaccines cause or spread the diseases they are supposed to prevent
  • People who are vaccinated can still get the disease
  • Some people have objections to vaccines based on religious beliefs

Safety concerns: General

  • Mercury in vaccines can cause autism
  • Vaccines can cause diabetes
  • Vaccines can cause cancer
  • Vaccines cause mad cow disease
  • Vaccines are linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
  • Vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome
  • Vaccines cause shaken baby syndrome

Safety concerns: Specific vaccines

  • MMR vaccine causes inflammatory bowel disease and autism
  • Pertussis vaccine causes brain damage
  • Polio vaccines cause HIV/AIDS
  • Hepatitis B vaccine causes multiple sclerosis
  • Flu vaccines cause the flu
  • Vaccination of young children can cause seizures
  • The flu vaccine causes febrile convulsions in young children
  • There is a link between rotavirus vaccine and intussusception
  • HPV vaccines are unsafe and cause infertility or problems with pregnancy

This booklet was published a short time after a report by the National Health Performance Authority on Immunisation rates for children in 2011-12 revealed that Australia is achieving a national immunisation average at or above 90 per cent, while some areas have rates as low as 75 per cent.

Grab the latest edition of the Immunisation Myths and Realities booklet here.