Image by USACE European District
As a proud parent of four unvaccinated children, I hear my share of misconceptions, myths, and outright lies. Some of these are well-intentioned, from people who are unsure and want the best for everyone; some of them are just confused; and some are saying these things in order to purposely stir up anger and fear towards those who choose not to vaccinate. I’d really like to clear up misconceptions that fall into all these categories. I don’t want people to be needlessly afraid of unvaccinated children, or to feel like they have to vaccinate (or just avoid unvaccinated children) because of their fear. So read on, and let’s dispel some myths!
Myth #1: Unvaccinated children are responsible for disease epidemics!
Truth: Not even close.
Most of the recent disease epidemics have broken out in highly vaccinated communities. They largely occur in cycles (an outbreak one year, then not again for a few years), and usually because a disease has mutated. Most doctors and researchers are pretty sure this is what has happened with whooping cough, and that’s why it’s making such a comeback. Since the disease has mutated, there is no vaccine to “protect” against it, so it doesn’t matter if you were vaccinated or not — you are at risk. This is, honestly, more than likely due to the vaccine, because the disease wants to stay alive, so it mutated to a new strain in order to continue getting people sick.
Regardless, it is definitely not the unvaccinated children “spreading disease around,” there is so much more to it than that.
Myth #2: Unvaccinated children are disease carriers!
Unless a kid — vaccinated or not — actually has a disease, they cannot spread it. Unvaccinated children do not just get diseases and go spread them all around. Many of them do not get sick very often! The truth is, disease is spread by anyone who has it, often before they know they’re sick. Especially if diseases have mutated (see point #1), anyone could catch a disease and accidentally pass it on before they know they’re sick, vaccinated or not.
Many parents will keep their kids out of school if they are unvaccinated if an epidemic breaks out to try to prevent both catching and spreading the illness (which I don’t think is entirely fair, given that any kid can spread it, but whatever). It’s important to understand: anyone who is sick can pass an illness on, and it’s not actually more likely to be an unvaccinated person. (Shows like Law & Order, where, in one episode, they actually prosecuted a mother for not vaccinating her child who caught measles and passed it on to a baby who died, do not help this point at all! That was blatant and unforgivable propaganda.)
Myth #3: Unvaccinated children are going to catch every disease out there and maybe/probably die!
Truth: Almost certainly not.
I won’t lie, choosing not to vaccinate means that you are taking responsibility for your child’s health, and the possibility that your child could catch a disease. It also means that you need to use other ways to bolster and protect your child’s immune system, like with excellent diet, cod liver oil, adequate rest and sunlight, etc. But as most parents who make this choice are well-educated and they do these things, their children are not much more likely than any other child to catch a serious disease.
It’s also important to understand that many of these diseases can be beneficial to children (over the age of 1 and under 12 or so) because they “train” their immune system naturally. Most complications arise from nutritional deficiencies, namely vitamin A. Parents whose children are healthy and not deficient, and who do not have compromised immune systems (another reason why parents may not be able to vaccinate) generally will not suffer any serious consequences as a result of any illness they may catch. They are likely to have an uncomfortable few days, and recover with no issues. It is important to put that into perspective, instead of fearing these diseases.
(Rates of serious complications are 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000 and usually occur in third-world countries, where nutritional deficiencies are much more likely.) There are, unfortunately, no studies on the health of unvaccinated children, nor studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children, so there is no way to say if either group is more likely to suffer complications or be hospitalized due to illness. (Pay attention…there are no studies.)
Myth #4: Unvaccinated children put everyone at risk because we can’t achieve the high numbers needed for herd immunity.
Truth: “Herd immunity” really doesn’t exist.
If it did, we wouldn’t be seeing disease outbreaks in highly vaccinated communities, we’d be seeing them in communities with lower rates. But since diseases are constantly changing and mutating, high vaccination rates can’t force diseases to go away. Those that have been “eradicated” did not happen because of vaccines; something else was going on. (There’s too much information for me to get into all that right now.)
Myth #5: If we stop vaccinating, then all these diseases will come back and kill us!
Truth: Probably not.
This isn’t really just about unvaccinated kids, but it’s so commonly perpetuated that I wanted to address this. If you take a look at last week’s post on how long immunity lasts, you’ll see that many adults no longer have protection against these diseases, yet we do not see outbreaks and deaths from them! There is also the fact that our sanitation practices are much better than they were, and nutrition is much better too (at least for those who are health-conscious, which includes most parents who choose not to vaccinate).
Our bodies can and do fight off illnesses all the time. We will not see a resurgence if we stop vaccinating; and if we see some, we won’t be seeing high death rates. Many illnesses were over 99% gone by the time we introduced the vaccine. For example, looking at measles on the WHO’s site, where the chart is only from 1980 – present, it appears the vaccine had a huge role in getting rid of the disease. But if you look at it from 1940 – present, you’ll see the vast majority of cases had dropped off by 1960 (the vaccine was introduced in 1963). This is a huge scare tactic but that is all it is. We will not see a bunch of people in iron lungs from polio (do you know that only a very tiny percent, less than 1%, of people who get polio ever got paralytic polio? Most were asymptomatic!). It just doesn’t work that way.
Myth #6: Unvaccinated children can’t go to school.
Truth: Total lie.
Do not vaccinate your kids just for this! I have heard so many parents say “I am worried about vaccines…but if I don’t do them, my kids can’t go to school, so I did.” This is a lie. In 48 states you can obtain a medical or religious exemption, and in several you can also obtain a philosophical exemption. This means you basically sign a paper saying that you are against some or all vaccines for medical, religious, or personal reasons. If you sign this paper, your child can attend public school with no vaccines or only some vaccines. (Bad news for all those “I don’t want your unvaccinated kid sitting next to mine in kindergarten” parents!)
Please learn your state’s laws and do not let anyone bully you into getting vaccines because “if you don’t, your kid can’t go to school.” It is a a complete lie! Some people will tell it because they believe it and they are concerned for you; some people are just misinformed about the laws or unaware; and some will deliberately tell you this to try to intimidate you. Do not let them.
What myths about unvaccinated children do you frequently hear?
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