Real Answers to the 8 Vaccine Questions

Vaccine Basics

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For whatever reason, someone thought it would be clever to come up with "8 Questions" to handle an "assault" by anyone who thinks that vaccines are safe and effective.

The idea seems to be that you (if you are anti-vaccine) learn these questions and answers and then quiz others, allowing the discussion to continue only if the other person answers the questions correctly.

While it is certainly good to be educated about a topic you are having a debate about, not surprisingly, many of the answers are wrong.

Real Answers to the 8 Vaccine Questions

As I have discussed in my other anti-vaccine myths and misinformation articles:

  • vaccines do not contain aborted human fetal cells
  • vaccine ingredients are safe
  • pentavalent vaccines (Pediarix or Pentacel) are combination vaccines that provide protection against 5 vaccine-preventable diseases in 1 shot. For example, Pediarix combines the DTaP, hepatitis B, and polio vaccines into one shot, while Pentacel combines the DTaP, Hib and polio vaccines.
  • neither Pediarix nor Infanrix are hexavalent vaccines and neither are "commonly given without parental knowledge." Pediarix is a pentavalent or 5-in-1 vaccine, while Infanrix is just a brand of DTaP and is actually identical to the DTaP component that is in Pediarix.  Neither of these vaccines or any other vaccines, "contain a whopping 850 mcg of aluminum." The package insert for Pediarix actually states that each dose contains "not more than 0.85 mg aluminum by assay," and is well within aluminum safety limits that have been set by the FDA. There is currently no hexavalent or 6-in-1 vaccine that is FDA approved in the United States. Infanrix-hexa and Hexyon are two hexavalent vaccines that are approved in other countries.
  • children don't get 49 vaccines by age two - instead, by age two years, fully vaccinated children are protected against 14 vaccine preventable diseases after getting between 25 to 27 doses of 10 different vaccines, including the rotavirus (available as 2 or 3 dose versions), DTaP, Hib (available as 3 or 4 dose versions), Prevnar 13, IPV, influenza, MMR, varicella, hepatitis B, and hepatitis A vaccines. It is only by using special anti-vaccine math that you can get the count up to 49 vaccines or vaccine doses by age two or age four.

People who are anti-vaccine, like to call themselves pro-vaccine choice now, but they are hardly letting parents make an informed choice about vaccines when they continue to push propaganda and misinformation.

More Vaccine Questions

1. What percentage of unvaccinated people would contract measles if exposed to an infected person?

A: 90%. Measles is highly contagious and has been described as "one of the most transmissible viruses known."

And the other thing that makes measles outbreaks hard to control is that people with measles can be contagious for up to two to four days before and after they develop the classic measles rash. So many people are contagious and expose others when they just have a fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis, and don't even know that they have measles.

2. What percentage of people with measles are hospitalized with complications of measles?

A: 25-30%. Although we often focus on the fact that measles is a life-threatening disease, it does more commonly lead to complications that hospitalize children and adults, even in developed countries.

3. Does the pertussis portion of DTaP/Tdap vaccines shed live virus?

A: No, pertussis is a bacterial infection and the "a" stands for acellular, which means there aren't whole cells in the vaccine. Pertussis vaccines are not live virus vaccines, so can not shed.

The idea that the pertussis vaccine could shed came after a pertussis study in baboons. After vaccinated baboons were intentionally infected with pertussis, they became pertussis carriers (pertussis bacteria could be cultured from their throat) for a short period of time, and did get an unvaccinated baboon that was housed in the same cage with them sick.

The vaccinated baboons did not develop symptoms of pertussis though.

4: Which vaccines that are routinely given to children still have thimerosal in them?

A: None. Only the multi-dose flu vaccine still contains the preservative thimerosal, but thimerosal free versions have been available for some time now.

5. How long can hepatitis B virus live on dried blood or contaminated surfaces?

A: At least one week! The hepatitis B virus has been described as being "relatively resilient" and "has been shown to remain infectious on environmental surfaces for more than 7 days at room temperature."

6. Name three ways other than sex or needle-drug use that an unvaccinated person can become infected with hepatitis B.

A: There are a number of ways to get hepatitis B, including:

  • needlestick injuries, such as a child who finds a contaminated needle in a park or someone who is exposed to a contaminated needle during acupuncture, ear piercing, or tattooing, etc.
  • an exposure to a break in skin without a needlestick, including after a fresh cut, bite, scratch, or burn, etc. In household settings, hepatitis B virus transmission can even occur from sharing toothbrushes or razors with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • touching contaminated surfaces and then touching an open skin lesion

Of course, one of the most common ways to get hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis B is through perinatal transmission - a baby who gets exposed and infected with the hepatitis B virus from a mother with chronic hepatitis B infection.

But can't we just vaccinate high-risk people, including babies of women who are known to have hepatitis B? While it certainly sounds like a good idea, we tried it when the hepatitis B vaccine first came out and it didn't work.

7. How many currently identified genotypes of measles virus does the measles vaccine protect against?

A: All of them. Yes, all of them. The idea that the measles vaccine doesn't cover one or more wild type measles genotypes is pure propaganda and a new measles myth.

8: How many children have to suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases, experience severe complications, or die from these diseases before folks who are anti-vaccine will believe the overwhelming scientific and medical evidence that vaccines work, that vaccines are necessary to save lives, and that vaccines are safe?

A: We will likely never know the answer to that question. While people who intentionally don't vaccinate their kids like to think that they have done their research about vaccines and have made a good decision, it is clear to most people that they and many of the pandering pediatricians who support them minimize the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and overstate the risks of vaccines.

To best understand why some people are anti-vaccine, it likely helps to read about someone who left the anti-vaccine movement.

Get Educated. Get Vaccinated. Stop the Outbreaks.

(written with Joc E Lyn)


Vaccines (Sixth Edition) 2013, Pages 352–387.

Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. The Pink Book: Course Textbook. 12th Edition Second Printing (May 2012)

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