Immunization Myths

School starts across Texas this month, and many parents are busy getting their children vaccinated, as required by law. It's also true that many children aren't getting vaccinated, and doctors say it's because some parents have bought into the negative mythology surrounding childhood immunizations. Jim Bell reports.


Public Health experts say there's an incredible amount of bad information about childhood immunization on the Internet. Houston pediatrician Dr. Melanie Mouzoon of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic says much of it was put there by people who know little or nothing about vaccines or immunizations, and by people with an axe to grind about vaccines in general.

"There's certainly a lot of information on the Internet that is not juried by any scientific source.  And also, unfortunately, some of the anti-vaccine websites look like they could be sponsored by the federal government, or a prominent scientific organization, but in fact are not."  

Dr. Mouzoon says even well educated people can be victimized by websites that play on their emotions and fears. She says one of the most widespread and most pernicious myths spread by fear is that vaccines cause autism, which she says is just not true.  One study that has been disproved suggested a link between autism and a mercury-based preservative in the vaccine. That preservative was discontinued in 2001, but the national rate of autism has increased every year since then.

"There has been no link proven to autism. Autism is by and large a genetic disorder."

Some parents don't think vaccinations are necessary anymore because many childhood diseases have been eliminated.  Others say their children don't need vaccinations because all the other children in their school have them.  Dr. Mouzoon thinks that's a selfish attitude that leaves a child vulnerable to any disease that comes along.

"It is true that if your unvaccinated child is going to a school where most of the other children are vaccinated, you're less likely to have that child become sick with anything, because the children around them are less likely to be sick with measles for example, and bring it to the school.  However, once a germ like measles does get into that environment, you're much much more likely to have your child fall ill to that."

Texas requires children to be vaccinated to attend school, but Texas also allows exemptions for children whose parents object to vaccines for philosophical or religious reasons. Dr. Mouzoon says the exemption is easy to get, and more and more parents are getting it, in large part because of all the mythology and misinformation.  She believes their children, and children they associate with, are the ones who will suffer the most from their parents' willingness to believe things that aren't true.  She urges people to get their medical information from credible and reputable websites only, such as the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health, just to name two. 

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.