Religion and politics are no longer the only taboo subjects at backyard barbeques. The topic of vaccines and vaccinations can trigger strong, and often opposing viewpoints for many people. It’s also fair to say there’s a lot of misinformation out there about even some of the most common and well-known types of vaccinations. And if there’s one thing we like doing here, its dispelling myths – with SCIENCE. We spoke to our immunology expert, Daniel Layton, to get the low down on this viral topic.
1. Vaccines cause autism – MYTH
Right off the bat we’re going for the most divisive myth, and it’s not because we want to upset anyone, it’s just that we know that we know what we’re talking about. We are Australia’s national science agency after all!
Here’s a bit of background info for this one: 20 years ago a former British doctor had an article published that falsely linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism. The paper was retracted and the former doctor has his medical licence revoked, but unfortunately the myth persisted and it’s still endangering people’s lives today.
Since then a number of high quality studies have compared the health of large numbers of vaccinated and unvaccinated children. The largest of these included 537,303 children born in Denmark and found that unvaccinated children were just as likely to develop autism as vaccinated children. When the results of this study were combined with the results of nine other studies to include medical information from nearly 1.5 million children living all around the world, researchers confirmed that vaccination does not cause autism.
2. The flu vaccine can give me the flu – MYTH
Nah, we’ve all heard this one. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself?! Don’t worry, this is a safe space and we don’t judge! But it’s simply not true. In Australia if you’re getting the flu vaccine (and yes, you do need to get it every year because the virus changes so the vaccine is updated to protect you from the worst strain) you’re getting jabbed with a ‘completely killed vaccine’. It doesn’t contain a live virus so it cannot cause an infection.
3. If everyone else is vaccinated, I don’t need to be – MYTH
Vaccines can limit the amount of a virus in the community and when enough people are vaccinated against a disease (measles or whooping cough for example) the entire community is less likely to get the disease. So to keep this community protection – known as herd immunity – going, and help protect people who can’t get vaccinated (babies, pregnant women and people with immune deficiencies or recovering from cancer) we all need to do our part and keep those vaccination levels up. Eventually, the disease can become rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether, like small pox, for instance. Hooray!
4. Vaccines weaken your immune system – MYTH
Short answer: No, they don’t.
Long answer: No, they don’t, and it’s actually the opposite that’s true. Vaccines strengthen your immune system by stimulating your own natural defence mechanisms that in turn protect you from specific diseases. For some vaccines this immune strengthening can last for decades.
5. Vaccines are not proven to prevent the flu – MYTH
Wrong! The flu vaccine has been shown to protect against 60% of confirmed influenza infections (as opposed to a bad cold, which can seem very similar) and this can be even higher in children.
Influenza is a virus that just keeps on giving….in a bad way. Influenza is responsible for over 10,000 hospital visits and more than 1,000 deaths in Australia each year. In fact 2017 was the worst year on record with over 220,000 cases of influenza reported – not to mention the three to five million cases of influenza globally each year. So it’s really important that you make the time to get your shot!
Light us up!
You might be wondering why we’re even talking to you about this – it’s a great question, and thank you for asking! Other than the fact that we love talking about science (duh) and busting myths, we’re actually hanging out at Vivid Sydney right now. We’re showcasing an intimate view of viral and bacterial structures and we want you to come by and check it out, if that’s your thing. Even if it’s not come by and say hello anyway, our scientists are super friendly. Lock it in, and we’ll see you tonight, or any night up until 16 June!
7th June 2018 at 9:21 am
Evidently Not, Rhonda !!
7th June 2018 at 12:17 pm
We do our best to find answers to our readers questions and respond to feedback, but it won’t always be timely depending on how busy our scientists are. Once we have a response we’ll be sure to post it.
CSIRO Social Media
7th June 2018 at 9:08 am
“we’re actually hanging out at Vivid Sydney right now. We’re showcasing an intimate view of viral and bacterial structures and we want you to come by and check it out, if that’s your thing. Even if it’s not come by and say hello anyway, our scientists are super friendly. Lock it in, and we’ll see you tonight, or any night up until 16 June”
Sydney Vivid is a big place, exactly where are you?
7th June 2018 at 9:15 am
We’re located on George St, at The Rocks. You can find out more info here: https://www.vividsydney.com/event/light/beautiful-and-dangerous
CSIRO Social Media
6th June 2018 at 2:08 pm
Rhonda: You can find the ingredients here: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-7#4-7-4
This factsheet explains why the ingredients are used: https://beta.health.gov.au/resources/publications/what-is-in-vaccines-fact-sheet
6th June 2018 at 12:21 am
This is great information but sadly I don’t think it addresses the main objections that those opposed to vaccinations have, such as:
– vaccines are made with toxic chemicals which can harm you
– children are given too many vaccines at once, which is not healthy for them
– chickens and eggs are harmed in producing vaccines
– the medical establishment are beholden to large pharmaceutical companies trying to make profits, which is why we are being encouraged to use their products
– you can beat most of the diseases without a vaccine if you eat healthy food and avoid toxic chemicals
– it’s your body and if you end up with a disease it is only you who will suffer so it’s no one else’s business if you vaccinate or not
I don’t believe any of the above but I know people who do, and would like to see our science organisations address the genuine concerns of those who are choosing not to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases.
7th June 2018 at 12:06 pm
Thanks for your comment and feedback. We agree that there can be a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccines, and while we’d love to address every myth, we see this as a good step in the right direction. We’ll certainly try and tackle more of these myths in the future. We strongly support vaccines as the best prevention for disease and would always recommend members of the public consult with their local GP to discuss any questions or concerns around their personal health.
CSIRO Social Media
5th June 2018 at 1:14 pm
Since this is the CSIRO, can you tell me what vaccines really contain. I hear a lot about toxic fillers such as mercury.