9 Vaccine Myths That Refuse To Die — And The Facts Debunking Them

Published December 2, 2015
Updated January 25, 2018

4. Adults that were vaccinated as children don’t need further immunizations

The facts: The immunity we receive from a given vaccine lessens over time, which means that as we age, further vaccines are often necessary. Likewise, diseases such as pneumococcal disease; hepatitis A and B; tetanus; diphtheria and pertussis; meningococcal disease and shingles are all painful diseases that can strike adults, and which vaccines can prevent. In the words of former US Assistant Surgeon General Anne Schuchat, “We really need to get beyond the mentality that vaccines are for kids. Vaccines are for everybody.”

Baby Measels

How the measles presents in small children. Source: Student Society for Science

5. You don’t need to be vaccinated against diseases that are eradicated in the US

The facts: Herd immunity essentially says that if the majority of a given population is immunized against a given disease, even those who aren’t immunized are “protected” from the disease because the proportion of those resistant is so large that an infectious disease simply cannot establish itself and spread.

The key to herd immunity working, though, is that a majority of people are vaccinated. If fewer people vaccinate their children, the herd becomes smaller, which increases the probability that an infectious disease can establish itself and spread.

6. Natural immunity is better than immunity acquired from vaccines

The facts: Sometimes natural immunity—or catching a disease and then getting over it—can provide strong antibodies against disease. That is, of course, if you are willing to take the increased costs associated with contracting the disease in the first place. If you catch the measles, your chance of death is 1 in 500. If you vaccinate, however, your chances of having a severe allergic reaction is less than 1 in a million. Some say that “vaccines aren’t worth the risk,” but these numbers prove otherwise.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.