Doctors' NotesLifestyle

Are Vaccines Really Safe?

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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


Summer is winding down and it’s time to start preparing the kids to go back to school. While this is a time of great anticipation for everything that the new academic year will bring, it can also be a time of great anxiety while trying to get last minute physicals and immunizations up to date. While most kids have always dreaded those back-to-school vaccines, controversy surrounding vaccine safety now has some parents wanting to steer clear of them as well.

The fact of the matter is that childhood vaccines remain one of the safest, effective, and most valuable means of disease control and prevention in the United States. We tend to forget that just 60 years ago, polio was a common childhood disease that left more than 15,000 people paralyzed each year. Since the introduction of the vaccine, polio has been completely eliminated from this country and there have been no signs of disease in over 35 years.

Despite the unmerited claims against them, vaccines remain an important part of our health as a community. Unfortunately, we often have to fight through the myths about vaccines to get to the truth about them. Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, we want you to be aware of the most common misconceptions about vaccines and why you shouldn’t believe them.

1.  Vaccines do more harm than good. This is a common myth and it is false! While there are adverse reactions reported every year to vaccines, more than 90% of them are classified as minor, and the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks. There have been no verifiable links of vaccines to autism or any other harmful issues. However, countless infectious diseases have been prevented through vaccines like polio, small pox, and the complications of measles, mumps, and rubella just to name a few.

2.  My doctor gets paid to “push” vaccines. This is completely untrue. Most doctors have no vested interest in vaccine companies, but simply in the health and well-being of each patient. We don’t benefit in any way from our patients getting vaccines, except the benefit of seeing them stay healthy.

3.  Childhood illnesses are harmless and no big deal. A common misconception about childhood illnesses like chicken pox, measles, and mumps are that they are harmless and there’s no sense in vaccinating against them. However, illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella are serious and can lead to devastating complications in both children and adults. Some common effects include pneumonia, blindness, ear infections, brain inflammation and death. This can all be prevented with vaccines.

4.  Vaccines are no longer necessary. While it is true that what once were common diseases have now been virtually eradicated in this country because of vaccinations, the infectious agents that cause them continue to circulate in some parts of the world. If we eliminate vaccines in the U.S., these diseases would return.

5.  Vaccines are only necessary in childhood. This is untrue.  There are several vaccines that are necessary and/or initiated in adulthood.  These would include the tetanus/pertussis booster vaccine which is necessary every 10 years, as well as the influenza, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines to name a few.

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!