There have been many arguments concerning the effectiveness of vaccines, whether the discussion revolves around Covid-19, influenza, or other various illnesses. The fact remains, however, that because of vaccines, there are many diseases that have almost been wiped out. Polio is one that immediately comes to mind. Yet there are still many misconceptions about immunizations that cause people to avoid them. While I cannot cover all of these misconceptions in this short blog, I will cover a few main points and leave links to the information, so you can vet the information yourself.
The most common misconception I hear concerns the influenza vaccine, which is available every year to work on preventing the disease from spiraling out of control throughout communities. I constantly hear the argument that, “It never works, and I get the flu anyway.” However, even if you do get the flu, the vaccine is still at work keeping you safe. Influenza has the potential to be a very dangerous disease, but the flu vaccine helps to mitigate the effects it has on you and your body. According to the CDC, many studies show that among adults who are hospitalized with cases of the flu, those who are vaccinated are less likely to need ICU care and are more likely to survive—a study from 2021 shows that vaccinated adults were 26% less likely to be admitted to the ICU and had a 31% lower risk of death.
Another common misconception is that vaccines aren’t needed to protect against contagious illnesses, and that if you live a healthy lifestyle with a good diet, you’ll be safe. It’s undeniable that a healthy diet has great effects on your body, and even on your immune system—diets rich in vegetables, whole grains, and nuts encourage production of helpful chemicals that assist your immune response. But by no means does this translate to being immune to infectious diseases—your body may be able to fight off the common cold, but without a vaccine, you’re left vulnerable to more deadly illnesses such as polio and measles. Vaccines help to protect from diseases like these, increasing your chances for safety by specifically counteracting them instead of only generally strengthening your immune system.
Vaccines are like a safety training course for your body. They introduce antigens—cells that imitate the specific infection—into your body and show your immune system what a real virus is like without any of the dangerous risks or symptoms of a full infection. These antigens cause an immune response, giving your body practice on how to fight off a specific virus or disease. As a result, whenever you come into contact with a real virus or infection, your body is trained and can keep you safe, either by mitigating the severity of an infection or by fighting it off completely. The exhaustion and discomfort you may feel for a few days after getting a vaccine isn’t a result of anything harmful happening to you, it’s simply your body learning how to resist disease.
Vaccines and immunizations aren’t anything to be afraid of. They should be embraced, as they keep you and the people around you safer. This Immunization Awareness Month, help educate yourself and others about vaccines, and be sure to sign up for whatever shots you may need.
CDC. Explaining How Vaccines Work. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/understanding-vacc-work.html
CDC. What are the benefits of flu vaccination? cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm
Kubala, Jillian. (2021, April 09). Diet and the immune system: What is the link? medicalnewstoday.com. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-and-why-does-diet-influence-immune-function