9 VAC­CINE MYTHS BUSTED

There are many sto­ries around vac­cines that just aren’t true. We help you arm your­self with the truth

Your Pregnancy - - The Dossier Vaccinations -

VAC­CINES CAN CAUSE SUD­DEN IN­FANT DEATH SYN­DROME (SIDS)

The pri­mary cause of SIDS is suf­fo­ca­tion, which is why par­ents are warned to place their ba­bies on their sides or backs to sleep rather than on their stom­achs. Since this of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tion was made by the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics, the num­ber of SIDS deaths has dropped dra­mat­i­cally. This is in spite of the fact that the num­ber of ba­bies who re­ceived the hepati­tis B vac­cine (the vac­cine which was thought by some to cause SIDS) in­creased at the same time. So there re­ally is no truth to this myth.

VAC­CINES GUAR­AN­TEE 100% PRO­TEC­TION

No vac­cine is 100 per­cent ef­fec­tive. Most are 85 to 95 per­cent ef­fec­tive. Vac­cines may fail if they haven’t been stored prop­erly or be­cause an in­di­vid­ual has re­duced im­mu­nity due to ill­ness, ex­plains Dr Al­li­son Glass, a vi­rol­o­gist at Lancet Lab­o­ra­to­ries. If you didn’t stick to the timetable of vac­ci­na­tions and didn’t have your booster shots when rec­om­mended, the per­for­mance of the vac­cine may be com­pro­mised. But, says Dr Glass, when in­fected, the dis­ease is likely to be milder than it would have been with­out vac­ci­na­tion.

I HAD MEASLES WHEN I WAS A CHILD AND IT WAS NO BIG DEAL!

“Com­pli­ca­tions of dis­eases like measles are un­pre­dictable. So while in most cases the dis­ease may be mild, there are plenty of cases where the dis­ease is se­vere enough to cause death or per­ma­nent dam­age such as blind­ness, deaf­ness and in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity,” says Dr Melinda Suchard of the Cen­tre for Vac­cines and Im­munol­ogy at the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases (NICD). Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), in 1980, be­fore wide­spread vac­ci­na­tion, measles caused an es­ti­mated 2.6-mil­lion deaths each year and re­mains one of the lead­ing causes of death in chil­dren. “Some par­ents may be lucky and their child may have a mild in­fec­tion, but for the one un­lucky par­ent whose child be­comes blind or deaf from menin­gi­tis caused by hae­mophilus or measles, there’s no go­ing back. The com­pli­ca­tions of these in­fec­tions are well known, are highly pos­si­ble and one shouldn’t take them lightly,” says Dr Suchard. Con­sider oth­ers’ safety too. Women in­fected with measles while preg­nant are at risk of se­vere com­pli­ca­tions and the preg­nancy may end in mis­car­riage or preterm de­liv­ery.

PO­LIO AND MEASLES HAVE AL­MOST BEEN COM­PLETELY WIPED OUT, SO MY CHILD DOESN’T NEED TO BE VAC­CI­NATED AGAINST THEM

Po­lio has in­deed been elim­i­nated in SA – we haven’t had any cases since 1989. But there is still po­lio cir­cu­lat­ing in the world. “While there is still some ‘wild type’ po­lio cir­cu­lat­ing in the world, no one is safe against po­lio and that’s why we con­tinue to be vac­ci­nated,” says Dr Suchard. In­fec­tions for dis­eases you’re vac­ci­nated for may be low in SA, but if too many peo­ple don’t vac­ci­nate their chil­dren, they open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­eases to (re-)en­ter our pop­u­la­tion and spread. With global travel be­ing so preva­lent, all it takes is one in­fected per­son to ar­rive in South Africa and you (and your chil­dren) will be at risk. In­deed, one baby in KwaZulu-Na­tal died three years ago from diph­the­ria, while five more were crit­i­cally ill. These may seem like small num­bers, but they are alarm­ing facts when you con­sider these chil­dren needn’t have caught diph­the­ria at all. The rea­son peo­ple may feel that they no longer need to be vac­ci­nated for these dis­eases is ac­tu­ally be­cause of the suc­cess of vac­cines, says Dr Suchard. “Be­cause these dis­eases are so rare, we’ve lost our fear of them. But if you speak to your grand­par­ents about these types of dis­eases, they can tell you sto­ries about how com­mon they were and the deaths they caused.”

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