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When it comes to vaccines - why are people talking about 'Safety concern' ?

Fear is induced by portraying vaccines as a general safety concern (e.g., hot lots)

There are usually two types of vaccination fears, which tend to be much greater than the actual risks involved. Both types of fear have been shown to influence vaccine hesitancy.

1) Fears related to suffering side effects (whether plausible or not). For example:

  • Autism.
  • Cancer.
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions.
  • Death.

These fears can stem from or be magnified if individuals perceive vaccines to have toxic ingredients. Some commonly mentioned ones are:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Glycerin.
  • Thimerosal.
  • Aluminium.

2) Fear of the vaccination procedure itself, such as fear of needles.

This theme captures a need to be convinced that vaccines are 100% safe, with no risks at all. It is often expressed with exaggerated or distorted probabilities of side effects, especially severe ones. Sometimes people may mention a belief in “hot lots”, where some vaccine batches are perceived as more likely to induce side effects. Overall, arguments in this theme induce fear by portraying vaccines as a safety concern.

Is there any truth in it?

Severe side effects following vaccination are uncommon, but they exist. For example, if 1,000,000 people get vaccinated, one person can be expected to have a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. It is important for everyone to know about the possible risks of vaccines and how likely these are to occur.

What could I say To someone fixed on this belief?

Dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals is most productive if it is guided by empathy, and an opportunity for the patient to affirm the reasons underlying their attitudes and to express understanding for that. That’s why it is important to understand the attitude roots behind people’s overt opinions. To affirm a person’s underlying attitude root does not mean we need to agree with the specifics of their argument. For example, we can acknowledge that:

Severe side effects following vaccination are uncommon, but they exist. For example, if 1,000,000 people get vaccinated, one person can be expected to have a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. It is important for everyone to know about the possible risks of vaccines and how likely these are to occur.



Having set the stage through this (partial) affirmation, we can then proceed to correct the patient’s particular misconception.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) only approve vaccines that have gone through rigorous safety testing measures. The regulators continually monitor them all the time.

Billions of people have been safely vaccinated against many vaccine-preventable diseases. People can report anything they think are side effects on national reporting systems like the Yellow Card system. Not all of these may be due to vaccination, but this allows regulatory bodies to monitor the data and publish safety updates regularly.

We know from these public data and research that the primary side effects of a vaccine include mild fever and pain or redness at the injection site; these typically resolve within a few days. Severe side effects are extremely rare.