National Consumers League

Yet another study confirms childhood vaccines are safe


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In not so surprising news, researchers again prove that childhood vaccinations are safe for routine immunizations. At a time when vaccination rates are declining and when once eradicated diseases like measles are resurging (500 cases since January), this report couldn’t have come at a better time. 

This news confirms the importance and safety of vaccines, especially as many parents are declining routine vaccinations for fear of harm. The bottom line: childhood vaccinations don’t cause autism, and they do protect patient and public health.

The results of a comprehensive, systematic review of vaccine safety were released last week in the journal of Pediatrics. This study was done as a follow up to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, investigating the scientific evidence for potential adverse effects of childhood vaccines. Researchers scoured published data for articles evaluating both vaccine safety, capturing adverse event reports, and describing patient characteristics for immunizations recommended for routine use in children 6 and under.  From an initial batch of over 20,000 research papers, 67 were chosen to be analyzed. Based on the evidence presented in the papers, vaccine safety was classified as being high, moderate, low confidence or insufficient evidence.

This new research can be added to a long list of already published medical information that support vaccinations effectiveness to prevent terrible, life threatening diseases and illnesses.

Americans are lucky to live in a country that provides access to these safe and effective vaccinations at a relatively low cost. In other countries, it isn’t as easy. The measles vaccine for instance costs less than $1, yet measles is still a leading cause of child death worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that there are 330 child deaths every day due to measles. In America, where the vaccine is completely affordable and there are few barriers towards getting vaccinated, we see parents refuse vaccinations, citing reasons of harm often based on little or no accurate science.

It has been more than half a century since vaccinations for polio, measles, and other diseases were rolled out on a public scale. And illnesses like mumps or measles, once commonplace, are so rare that many US doctors don’t even know how to treat it nor would they know how to identify the characteristic rash and implement safety protocols to prevent spread. Yet today, that is exactly what is happening. 

It’s time for science and rigorous and accurate research studies to be the basis of our health care decision-making, not baseless opinions of non-scientists. Both the FDA and CDC regularly monitor vaccines for safety, even after they have been approved, and have mechanisms to alert the public if issues are found. Let’s all do our part to protect our community’s health by staying current with the recommended vaccinations to prevent the spread of disease.

Here’s a quick recap of what this study found for the childhood vaccinations.

  • DTaP: No evidence for any causal link between side effects or causing diabetes. DTap is for diphtheria toxoid, tetanus toxoid and pertussis. Think, DTaP prevents tetanus and whopping cough.
  • Hib Vaccine: No association with severe side effects. One study found an association with redness and swelling at the injection site. Hib is a serious disease that can affect the lungs, brain, ears.
  • Hepatitis A: Moderate association with excessive bruising (purpura) for children 7 to 17 years of age, which clears up shortly after injection.
  • Hepatitis B: No evidence for causal relationship with neurologic disorders including autism or multiple sclerosis.
  • IPV (Inactivated Polio Virus): Insufficient evidence to claim that this vaccine leads to food allergy sensitivities in newborns.  
  • Influenza vaccines: Low evidence that the vaccine causes flu-like illness in children when vaccinated. The study did find moderate evidence that vaccination leads to mild gastrointestinal events (e.g. vomiting or diahrrea). There is moderate evidence that links flu vaccine to febrile seizures especially when administered at the same time as the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • MMR: The evidence did not support a causal relationship with the vaccine and autism.  There is a moderate association with increased emergency department visits 2-weeks after administration, likely linked to the increase chance of febrile seizures. MMR is the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella.
  • Meningococcal: The evidence is moderate that the vaccine may cause anaphylaxis in children with allergies to ingredients.
  • PCV13: This vaccine is against pneumonia and has a moderate association of febrile seizures especially when given at the same time as the flu vaccine.
  • Rotavirus Vaccines: Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea in children. The vaccine is moderately associated with intussusception (problem with the intestine that can be fixed with minor surgery), but this is quite rare!
  • Varicella: There is evidence that the vaccine can lead to some illnesses especially in immune-compromised individuals.