Concerns over vaccine safety have allowed myths and misconceptions about vaccination to spread among parents/carers, despite there being little, if any, evidence to back them up. However, the large amount of unverified information available on the internet about vaccination can make it difficult to distinguish the fact from fiction. Scroll down to learn the truth behind some common vaccine myths or download the full guide here.
Section 3: Vaccine myths
- Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?
- Is there mercury in vaccines, and will this be toxic for my child?
- Is it safer to receive vaccines separately rather than in combination?
- Do vaccines cause allergies and autoimmune diseases?
- Are animal products used in vaccines?
Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?
In 1998, a former and now discredited doctor published a paper to suggest a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and development of autism. The actual paper showed no such link and it was subsequently removed from publication due to ethical violations, financial conflicts and serious errors in data collection.18 The doctor was also struck off the General Medical Council. The excessive amount of media coverage of the report and these statements caused panic among parents and a fall in vaccination rates, which ultimately resulted in dangerous measles outbreaks around the country. Multiple studies have since been carried out, studying a large number of participants, to investigate if there is any relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. None of these studies has identified any links between the MMR vaccine and autism.19,20,21
If you want to read more about this research, please click here for a list of additional resources.
Is there mercury in vaccines, and will this be toxic for my child?
Extensive research shows that there is no link between the levels of mercury, also referred to as thiomersal, used in vaccines and conditions such as brain damage and autism in children. Nevertheless, in an effort to reduce global environmental exposure to mercury, US and EU regulators have phased out thiomersal use in vaccines and none of the routine vaccines in the UK contain thiomersal.10, 22, 23
Is it safer to receive vaccines separately rather than in combination?
Multiple vaccines are given in a single healthcare appointment to make sure that your child is protected from a disease as soon as possible and to avoid you having to make multiple appointments. There is no medical benefit to spreading vaccinations out over multiple appointments. Some vaccines are combined into a single shot to limit the number of injections your child has to receive; for example the 6-in-1 vaccine reduces the number of injections from six to one. The combined vaccines have been shown to be as effective as the single injection and they do not pose any safety concerns or greater risk to your child.
Do vaccines cause allergies and autoimmune diseases?
The occurrence of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and allergies has increased over the last few decades and it is still unclear why this is happening. Vaccination rates have also increased during this time, which has led some people to believe that vaccines could be the cause. However, many large-scale studies have not found any evidence that vaccination triggers allergies or causes autoimmune disease.24, 25 The rise in allergies and autoimmune diseases has been more closely linked to lifestyle and environmental changes.
Are animal products used in vaccines?
Some live vaccines contain gelatine, which is derived from pigs. This is used to stabilise the vaccines so that they can be stored safely at different temperatures. The gelatine used is highly purified and broken down into very small molecules. Members of some faiths may however be concerned about using vaccines containing pig-derived gelatine. According to Jewish laws, there is no problem with porcine products in non-oral products – including vaccines.26 Similarly, many Muslim leaders have ruled that the presence of gelatine in vaccines does not break religious dietary laws due to its high purification and nonoral administration.26