Ask the BJC Expert

Ask the BJC Expert

Vaccine Myths

Published on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Immunizations have been a hot topic recently. With different information floating around, it can be difficult to know what to trust. John Paul Shoup, MD, a BJC Medical Group internal medicine and pediatric physician, sorts fact from fiction to help you make healthy decisions for yourself and your family.

MYTH #1: Giving an infant multiple vaccines can overwhelm their immune system. It’s better to space them out.
Concerns like this come from a good place. It shows the parent or caregiver is thinking about their child’s health and what they can do to best protect them. That being said, it is certainly safe for children to be given vaccines on the recommended schedule. An infant is constantly exposed to different bacteria and viruses all around them in the environment from the moment they are born. Because of this, it’s not unusual for their immune system to face dozens of potentially new bacteria or viruses every single day. The vaccines we give train the body’s immune system to fight back against particularly dangerous ones. 

MYTH #2: I’m an adult. I don’t need to worry about vaccines anymore.
While you may think your last immunizations as a teenager are enough, there are a handful of vaccines that should be on your radar as a young adult and as you age. Of course, all adults — even if you are young and healthy — should get the influenza vaccine every year. If you didn’t receive the HPV vaccine as a child, it’s recommended through 26 years old and even up to 45 years old. Every adult should also get a tetanus booster every 10 years and should receive the pertussis, or whooping cough, booster once, which comes in combination with the tetanus vaccine. As you move into older adulthood, between the ages of 50 and 65, you should receive the shingles vaccine and vaccines against pneumonia. If you have a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, other vaccines might also be recommended. Speak with your physician every few years about any vaccines that can help keep you in optimum health. 

MYTH #3: The flu vaccine will make you get sick and isn’t very effective. 
Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine doesn’t give you influenza or make you any more likely to get any other colds or viruses. Unfortunately, it’s just really common to catch and spread colds or other viruses this time of year. In terms of effectiveness, we don’t know how effective the flu vaccine is until flu season is over. However, we do know it reduces your risk of getting influenza. We also know that even if it doesn’t prevent you from getting influenza, it will be significantly less severe if you’ve been vaccinated beforehand, keeping you from needing to be hospitalized or put on a breathing machine. Influenza is a serious disease that can be potentially fatal for even young, healthy people. To keep you and your family well, we recommend everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine every year.

John Paul Shoup, MD, is a BJC Medical Group internal medicine and pediatric physician in Wentzville, Mo. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Shoup by calling 636.928.WELL.

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