Home > Vaccine Misconceptions > Vaccine Misconception of the day-Vaccines don’t work

Vaccine Misconception of the day-Vaccines don’t work


A commonly used “argument” goes as follows:

So and so vaccinated their child, and he/she still got sick later. Clearly vaccines don’t work, so why vaccinate?

While it is always a good idea to question things, one must be careful not to fall for easily identifiable logical fallacies, as is the case here. Clearly here the unstated premise is a false dichotomy that goes like this : Either vaccines prevent infection, at all times, or they never prevent infection. However, this fallacious way of thinking is omitting the other option, that vaccines will prevent some/most infections depending on the efficacy rate, which varies from vaccine to vaccine.

Consider child car seats for a moment. Every responsible parent straps their child in the seat every time they drive.  Yet accidents happen all the time, and children get hurt, even though they were correctly strapped in their car seats. Does this mean that because car seats do not prevent pain/death in 100% of accidents, that we should stop using them? That would be preposterous and anyone who would advance that argument in the public sphere would be considered mentally ill or insane. Yet it is the exact same fallacious logic as in the vaccine example, however for some reason that I cannot fathom, many parents are persuaded by the vaccine version but not by the car seat version.

Yet there is more to this I think. The parents that are sympathetic to the above argument usually seem to also believe that the side effects of vaccinations are much larger than they are in reality. This combo of misconceptions is very dangerous as it leads many parents to space-out, which has been shown to have no benefit whatsoever, or even worse not vaccinate their children. That results in increased risk of contracting highly deadly diseases by their children, and an increased risk to the community as a whole due to reduced herd immunity.

However, according to the CDC, most routine childhood vaccines are 85%-95% effective. Which means that anywhere between 5%-15% of vaccinated children will still develop the disease they were vaccinated for, and given that we’ve got quite a lot of kids running around in this country of ours, the chances that an adult would have heard/seen the story about a vaccinated kid getting sick, are quite substantial, which in turn helps the bad argument spread.

While 5%-15%n failure rate may sound high, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t work to reduce that failure  rate as much as possible, consider this: in 2003 measles killed an estimated 400,000 children under 5 years of age worldwide. Also consider that the measles vaccine is 98% effective when used as recommended, that translates into potentially up to 392,000 lives saved, every single year. And that is only deaths avoided, it doesn’t take into account the pain and suffering vaccinated children that got a milder version of the disease, because of the partial protection the vaccine gave them, were spared.  Mention that the next time someone tells you they choose not to vaccinate because they knew of some kid who got sick even though he was vaccinated.

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  1. August 20, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    Thanks. Here’s another one to put in your hopper:

    From this comment Kellie Bishof’s comment at I Speak of Dreams

    “herd immunity is a largely unproven theory riddled with holes. “Real Scientists” know the difference between a corporately promoted dogmatic theory and a true scientific principle.

    Vaccination does not equal immunization. Vaccines have varying levels of effectiveness, and the level of immunity obtained through vaccination is highly dependent the individual being vaccinated. (Not everyone responds to vaccines the same.) Vaccinated children can and do spread disease, just like unvaccinated kiddos. There have been documented outbreaks of disease in fully or mostly vaccinated populations. ”

    She’s repeating Sheri Nakken’s lines

    • Skepdude
      August 20, 2010 at 4:50 PM

      Thanks, I guess for sending me Sheri’s way. “those vaccinated really don’t have immunity but a chronic case of the disease” Wow! I guess there’s a lot of material for my “Vaccine Misconception of the day” series in that page alone. BTW, I just subsribed to your blog and will keep an eye on it. Thank you for commenting.

  2. August 18, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Consider this: If vaccines intend to mildly infect a person’s body to elicit a response from his/her immune system, then you can easily say “vaccines work.” If an infection spreads, however, you’ve just given the recipient the very disease you were trying to prevent. So then you could say the vaccine worked, but the person got sick anyway. This was already proven to be the current modus operandi when health care workers in Mexico City were force-vaccinated for the H1N1 virus before the 2009 outbreak. How do I know this? Besides the interviews with Mexican doctors (now deleted from all internet sources), Novartis pulled the H1N1 vaccine off the shelves just in time to avoid any association with the outbreak (source: Huffington Post). The British Medical Journal has since confirmed the entire “pandemic” was a scam, shamelessly promoted by the WHO. So you can say a vaccine works…especially if you want to spread a disease. That doesn’t mean anyone can benefit from taking them. Google Agenda 21 for a clearer picture about this.

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