Debunking the Myths About Vaccine Safety

Tré LaRosa avatar

by Tré LaRosa |

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I dislike making other people feel uncomfortable. Turning a light-hearted conversation into a heavy one by referring to my sister’s death, or standing up for myself to reduce infection risk, is the social equivalent of getting an IV to me.

Part of my journey has been learning to approach my self-advocacy in a way that isn’t self-important or selfish. But I realize that sometimes I need to be resolute to have a chance at an equitable life.

I can deal with many things — I will gently remind people to cover their mouths when coughing in public places or wash their hands — but I do not budge on flu vaccines. If someone or their child will be near me, I’m firm about asking if they have been vaccinated.

Unfortunately, topics such as vaccines are hot-button when they don’t need to be. Common refrains about flu vaccines include: They’re linked to autism; they cause the flu; they don’t work; they aren’t safe. All of these claims can be easily debunked.

With cystic fibrosis (CF), the risk of infection is increased. Our need to be careful to avoid viral infections is ingrained in us from a young age. We’re already incubating bacteria in our honey-thick mucus, so viral co-infections are extremely dangerous. We shouldn’t have to risk our health to preserve other people’s misguided feelings on a critical issue.

I want to debunk the concerns — with facts:

  • Tens of millions of kids have been vaccinated without a single one developing autism due to vaccinations. The claims originated from a study published in The Lancet. The lead author, a former physician named Andrew Wakefield who is now barred from practicing medicine in the U.K., was found to have acted unethically and with “callous disregard” for the children who participated in his study. The journal subsequently retracted the study. Wakefield had been a “paid consultant to attorneys of parents who believed their children had been harmed by vaccines,” Time magazine noted in 2010. Editors of The Lancet told The Guardian: “It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false.” The damage caused by Wakefield’s fraudulence can’t be overstated. As a result of his bogus study, preventable diseases have experienced resurgences.
  • Vaccines don’t cause the flu. Flu vaccinations contain a dead or significantly weakened (attenuated) version of influenza. In the attenuated version, the virus maintains enough of its structural integrity to “prime” your body to recognize the invasive infection and develop defenses against it.
  • Strict guidelines exist for the safety and efficacy of CF medications such as modulators, anti-inflammatories, and others. Vaccines are subject to comparable standards.
  • Predictions of which strains of the flu will be most prevalent each year inform the development of vaccines. And even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent the flu, it will reduce the likelihood that the infection becomes severe.
  • Some people are concerned about thimerosal in the vaccine formulations. Thimerosal, a preservative that prevents microbial growth, has been shown to be safe in many peer-reviewed studies. But if you have doubts, every vaccination is available in a non-thimerosal formulation.

Most people will experience mild or no side effects after vaccination. Side effects can resemble an early viral infection and are part of the priming process. Please consult your doctor before getting the flu shot as you may be part of an at-risk population.

Overall, research indicates that the flu vaccine is safe and effective. The medication has been administered more widely and frequently than most other medicines. It is better to get the flu shot than not to. It’s not just about your safety, it’s about the protection of those around you. Get vaccinated.

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Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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