Vaccines: A threat to health Myth or Fact

The measles was declared eliminated from the USA in 2000 but recent news headlines like “Measles making a strong come back with Washington State and New York experiencing the worst outbreaks in decades.” There are 50 cases found of measles in Washington and 200 in New York. This is due to the people’s reluctance or hesitation for vaccination.


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In fact, 34000 cases of measles were reported across 42 countries of WHO’s European region in the first two months for 2019. Measles is a contagious disease that can cause blindness, deafness or brain damage. Two doses of measles vaccine are effective in preventing infection. Many controversies are associated with the use of a vaccine.

A vaccine can cause autism: The measles vaccine might cause autism was first reported in 1998 in the prestigious Lancet. The article received intense media and public attention and perhaps maximum damage to the vaccination program.

Mercury content causes neurodevelopmental disorder: Thiomersal, mercury-containing preservative and has been part of multi-dose vaccine products. Mercury is neurotoxic, but its content is too low to cause adverse effects.

Vaccine cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome: The association of GBS with vaccination was reported in the Swine influenza program Vaccine program in 1976. GBS is a neurological disorder in which body immunity attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The study has proved that influenza infection is a stronger risk factor for GBS than the influenza vaccine.

A vaccine can cause autoimmune illness: It has been proved that the vaccine does not increase the risk of chronic disease of autoimmune origin.

HPV vaccine causes autoimmune diseases: There is no strong evidence to prove that Human Papilloma Virus vaccine and auto-immune origin.


in the vaccine: No relationship is found between aluminum concentration in infants’ blood or hair; and vaccine.

Too many vaccines can disturb the immune system: There is no report of increased risk of adverse health outcomes related to the number of vaccines received at an early age.

The growing public mistrust in immunization and the rise of ‘fake news’ are increasingly threatening immunization programs around the world and resulting in a measles outbreak in the US and Europe. In India, we have mixed perceptions. The myth that polio vaccine causes impotency was widespread in some communities in India and polio vaccination was viewed as a family planning strategy. The absence of trust between the caregiver and the care receiver is the issue. The previous side effects are the main reasons for vaccination resistance. The vaccine procedure, its storage and quality of needle used.

Lack of awareness and information coupled with adverse events following immunization are main reason contributing towards vaccine hesitation leading to 65% of children not covered under immunization.

The present generation has not seen the dreadful infectious disease in the past years, it is difficult to weigh vaccine hesitancy and benefits of vaccination. A recent article in the British Medical Journal claims that the anti-vaccine movement is stronger. They pose a bigger threat to low and middle-income countries.

According has recently observed that “vaccine refusal or hesitation to get a vaccination against deadly diseases despite the availability of effective vaccines” as one of the top ten threats to global health for 2019. Other threats include air pollution, climate change, non-communicable diseases global influenza pandemic, fragile vulnerable setting, antimicrobial resistance, Ebola and other high threat pathogens and HIV.

Vaccine hesitancy is a complex issue and one single strategy will not be helpful globally. It is important to study the reasons for people’s reluctance or hesitancy towards the proven and most effective tools of public health. Wilfully unvaccinated adults and children can spread the disease to those who cannot be vaccinated due to age and compromised immune systems. Travelers are often sources of infection. Hence, there is a need for global strategies to ensure all countries improve immunization coverage to protect people from preventable infectious diseases.

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