5 Reasons parents give for not vaccinating, and why they should


1. “So many vaccines so soon will overwhelm my baby’s immune system.”

The fact is that those of us born in the 1970s and ‘80s were vaccinated against eight diseases. On the other hand, a fully vaccinated 2-year-old today, can beat back 14 diseases. But it’s not the number of shots that matters; it’s what’s in them. Antigens are the viral or bacterial components of a vaccine that cause the immune system to build up antibodies and fight future infections. The total antigens children receive in vaccines today are a fraction of what kids used to receive, even including combination vaccines.

2. “My child’s immune system is immature, so it’s safer to delay some vaccines or just get the  most important ones.”

This is the biggest misunderstanding among parents today, and it leads to prolonged periods of susceptibility to diseases like measles. There’s no proof that spacing out vaccines is safer. What is known is that the recommended vaccine schedule is designed to provide the greatest possible protection. 

3. “Vaccines contain toxins, such as mercury, aluminium, formaldehyde and antifreeze.”

Vaccines are mostly water with antigens, but they need other ingredients to stabilise the solution or increase the vaccine’s effectiveness. Mercury, aluminium and formaldehyde are used in such low dosages, that they would not have an impact on the vaccine recipient.

Certain ingredients, however, do pose some risks. Antibiotics, such as neomycin, used to prevent bacterial growth in some vaccines, and gelatin, frequently used to prevent vaccine components from degrading over time, can cause extremely rare anaphylactic reactions (roughly once or twice per 1 million doses). Some vaccines may contain trace amounts of egg protein, but recent studies have shown that kids with egg allergies can often still receive them.

As for antifreeze, it is simply not in vaccines. Parents may be confusing its chemical names—both ethylene glycol and propylene glycol—with the ingredients used in the vaccine-manufacturing process (such as polyethylene glycol tert-octylphenyl ether), which is not harmful.

4. “Vaccines don’t really work anyway - look at last year’s flu vaccine.”


The vast majority are 85 to 95 percent effective. The flu vaccine is particularly tricky, however. Each year, infectious-disease specialists from across the world meet to predict which strains are likely to circulate during the following flu season. The vaccine’s effectiveness depends on the strains they pick—and sometimes they get it wrong. 

5. “The side effects of some vaccines seem worse than the actual disease.”

It takes ten to 15 years and many studies for new vaccines to make it through all four phases of safety-and-effectiveness testing before they can get approved. Each new vaccine intended for children is first tested in adults, then in children, and all new brands and formulations must go through the same process. No agency or company will invest that money in a vaccine that causes worse health problems than it prevents, and the diseases they are targeted at are all associated with serious complications that can lead to hospitalisation or even death.

It’s true that mild and moderate side effects are not unheard of, but serious side effects are far more rare, and far less devastating than the actual disease in its worst form.