Learn common myths about vaccines and which ones you need

June 18, 2024 Providence Health Team

[5 MIN READ]  

In this article:

  • Vaccines are one of the best tools to help prevent illness. 

  • There are many common myths about vaccines, including that they are guaranteed to protect a person from a disease.

  • If you’re not sure which vaccines you and your children need, we’ve got you covered.

Vaccines: The best way to prevent disease

Robert Lichfield, D.O., can’t say enough about the importance of vaccines. In fact, from his perspective, they are among the most important ways to stay healthy.

“Vaccines remain some of the very best tools to avoid illnesses,” says Dr. Lichfield, who is a family medicine doctor at Providence Urgent Care – Providence Medical Park in Spokane, Washington. “They’re right up there with sterile techniques for the great triumphs of Western medicine.”

Here, Dr. Lichfield shares some of the most common myths about vaccines, and we give you updates on the immunizations both kids and adults need.

Vaccine myths

Myth 1: When I give a vaccine to my child, it causes inflammation.

Dr. Lichfield: In reality, our body is always dealing with a certain amount of inflammation — that’s just our immune system doing its job. Any inflammation from a vaccine doesn’t cause lasting harm. Vaccines are extraordinarily safe — the benefits outrageously outweigh the risks.

Myth 2: A vaccine is a cure.

Dr. Lichfield: Most vaccines don’t work that way. When you get a vaccine, you’re looking to reduce the probability that you’re going to get that illness. Additionally, if you do get that illness, you are much less likely to suffer severe effects, such as hospitalization.

Myth 3: I should space out my child’s vaccinations, and not give them too many at one time.

Dr. Lichfield: I am passionate about trying to give good patient care, so if a parent feels better about giving their child vaccines one by one, I will certainly accommodate them. However, there’s no need to space out the vaccines. They’re very safe to give on schedule, and we can give multiple vaccines at the same time.

Immunizations for children

Babies and young children need to be vaccinated according to a schedule to gain maximum protection from infectious illnesses. The most common childhood vaccines include:

Children who stay on schedule with these vaccines usually complete their shots by the age of 6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and pediatricians also recommend other vaccines throughout childhood, including during the teen years.

One of those vaccines is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The first dose of this vaccine is typically given to 11- or 12-year-olds, and the second dose is given 6 to 12 months later. Almost every unvaccinated person who is sexually active will get HPV at some point in their life. While most infections will go away on their own, HPV can still cause cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women; penis in men; anus in both men and women, and back of the throat in both men and women. The vaccine is given during childhood to ensure that people are protected before they become sexually active.

Vaccine safety during pregnancy

The CDC recommends that women obtain certain vaccines during pregnancy to help protect both themselves and their baby. In particular, they should have the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough, and the flu shot to guard against the possibility of a dangerous bout with the flu. Studies have found that both vaccines and their side effects are completely safe for pregnant women.

Some live virus vaccines, however, are not safe to be administered during pregnancy, such as MMR and chickenpox. If they were not given in childhood, they should be administered either before or after pregnancy.

Immunizations for adults

Vaccinations aren’t just for kids and pregnant women. Adults ages 19 and older need to get their shots, too. The body’s immune system becomes less efficient as we age, particularly in our later years.

Vaccines are available to adults for a wide range of conditions. With few exceptions, all adults should get the following vaccines:

Based on their health and immunization history, some adults should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, too.

Learn more about recommended vaccines for adults.

COVID-19 and flu shots

The CDC’s current recommendations encourage older adults to get an updated version of the 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine dose. And what about other adults and children? That’s a little less clear, says Dr. Lichfield.

“We feel better about recommending a booster because they’re safe,” he says. “However, the illness has changed. The risk is extraordinarily low, and it’s mostly people who are 65 and older who are at risk.”

The flu shot, on the other hand, is a different story, according to Dr. Lichfield. He says every American adult and child should get a flu shot every fall. “Influenza is a lot worse than the current COVID strains,” he says. “Most viruses mutate over time, and they tend to become more contagious and less deadly. Influenza has been an exception to that, because it’s still just as deadly as it was years ago.”

Talk to your doctor and your children’s doctor about whether you and your family members are caught up on your immunizations. That conversation could be life-saving!

Contributing caregiver

Robert Lichfield, D.O., is a family medicine doctor at Providence Urgent Care – Providence Medical Park in Spokane, Washington.

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Related resources

Schedule your flu shot!

Get your child caught up on their wellness visits

Wellness checkups are for all ages

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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