Myth: Vaccines can cause the flu (and autism).
While the body can react to any shot with a low-grade fever, rumors that a flu shot can cause the flu are “an outright lie,” said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, co-author of “Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies about Your Body and Health” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009).
The flu shot does contain dead flu viruses but they are, well, dead. “A dead virus cannot be resurrected to cause the flu,” Vreeman said.
As for vaccines causing autism, this myth was started in 1998 by an article in the journal The Lancet. In the study, the parents of eight (count ’em, eight) autistic children said they believed their children acquired autism after they received a measles, mumps and rubella vaccination. Correlation was quickly confused with causation, and since then, rumors have run rampant despite many studies — such as a 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine of 530,000 (count ’em, 530,000) children — that have found nothing to suggest that vaccinations increase the risk of becoming autistic.
Unfortunately, the endurance of this myth, said Vreeman, who also conducts pediatric research, continues to eat up time and funding dollars that could be used to make advances in autism, rather than proving, over and over again, that vaccinations do not cause the condition.