Are Vaccines Safe?
Vaccines are safe for most children. However, as with anything in medicine, it can come with side effects.
Do we need to stop researching and investigating vaccines and side effects? No.
Can we do better and clean up vaccines more? Yes.
Does this mean they are unsafe? No, they are safe for most children, however, there are some children who may react adversely (see below). I read ingredients on every food and skin product with my goal being “the fewer additives the better.” I have the same view on vaccines. Science is constantly progressing forward and new discoveries are made. I expect the same advances in vaccines.
Furthermore, vaccines are under the microscope, as they should be. We have many organizations looking at vaccines and vaccine safety, not just the FDA and CDC. Below are a few examples of CDC collaborations.
1- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This is a public forum where anyone can go and report side effects they feel are caused by vaccines. If the reports show a pattern, this goes under investigation.
Some examples: Febrile seizures were increasingly reported with the Flu Shot, Prevnar, Hib, and Hep A at the 12-month visit. Studies were conducted to get an answer. They teased out that the Flu and Prevnar combo at the 12-month check up was causing an increase in the incidence of febrile seizures. Mass media and information were sent out to separate these vaccines and to dose them at different times. Same story for the MMRV (measles mumps rubella varicella combo vaccine) at 18months. This is no longer an allowed practice.
Beware of posts announcing links of side effects to vaccines based on VAERS. VAERS reports are not medical studies and are not confirmed by scientific evidence. These are reports by the general public or medical professionals who observe/hypothesize that there is a link between a certain side effect and a specific vaccine. Anyone can post on this site. Here is an example of a non-evidence based claim:
2 – Vaccine Safety Data – a collaboration between CDC and several health care organizations that allow ongoing monitoring and proactive searches of vaccine-related data.
3 – Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project – established in 2001 to address the unmet vaccine safety clinical research needs of the United States.
4 – Please refer to comment section in Post 1 regarding a few international studies looking at vaccine effectiveness data. These are only a few among the hundreds. Vaccine Data has been collected over a long time and from many countries and institutions.
How is the world set up to watch for Vaccine effectiveness and side effects?
Here are a few examples:
- World Health Organization
- US Centers for Disease Control (as above)
- The European Centers for Disease Control that works with the US CDC but is not a branch of the CDC. They have their own policies and programs and investigations.
- Japan has the National Institute for Infectious Disease for their policies and surveillance.
- The Australian Medical Association is currently creating the Australian Center for Disease Control, independent of the US CDC.
- New Zealand has the Ministry of Health that is independent from the above.
Why do people say vaccines may cause autism?
Andrew Wakefield launched the movement against vaccines with a fraudulent study in the respected British Medical Journals in 1998. Subsequent studies could not reproduce his findings. Moreover, his data was found to be fabricated in exchange for millions of pounds.
The rate of autism is on the rise and this is Very Scary. The scientific and medical community have been continuously looking for answers. While the search for autism cause was under way, Andrew Wakefield appeared to have answered the question in 1998. When he was discredited, celebrities picked up where he left off and continued to fuel this fire. As celebrity fame wavered, other professionals with or without medical background took up the cause. Associations on fancy graphs are continuously created. The graphs pose a question, that should be investigated, but they do not prove a link. Misinformation or suggestive information is fueling fear, worry, and parental nightmares.
Let’s look at a few examples.
How do you view the Autism and MMR controversy?
Besides staying abreast of the late research, I like to refer to Agencies focusing their efforts and resources on the question at hand, such as Autism Speaks. Here is the latest article I uncovered:
Fun Fact: Japan became concerned about MMR and autism about 20 years ago, so they stopped immunizing children with MMR for 10 years. They noted a continued rise in autism and a rise in measles, mumps, and rubella.
They currently immunize like the rest of the world. See graph below:
Can some people have an exaggerated response to vaccines?
Yes. I believe that there likely are genetic and environmental predispositions that lead to an exaggerated immune response to vaccines. This is true for many things in the environment, viruses and bacteria, etc.
When a body is presented with an antigen (particle of bacteria or virus) the body should make antibodies against the said antigen to protect itself. In some instances, the body gets too excited and produces too many antibodies which start attacking the body rather than protecting it. This can happen with food, vaccines, antibiotics, medications, supplements, and many viral and bacterial infections that try to invade our body daily.
Here are some examples:
- food allergies,
- penicillin allergies,
- kidney disease or kidney failure after strep throat, Hep B, E. Coli infection.
- liver failure from normal doses of Tylenol
- deafness from bacterial meningitis -Hep B liver cancer
There can also be allergic reactions to vaccine components. But again, the majority do not have this issue.
There are side effects to vaccines. However, based on global studies, vaccines do not pose major risks to the majority of people. In other words, vaccines have reduced the rates of illness of so many horrible diseases, and the majority of kids do not have significant side effects. If there is a way we can detect those people who will mount an exaggerated immune response, and devise a safer program for them, that will be the ideal scenario, but we are not quite there yet.
It is important that you discuss your individual case with your doctor to make sure the right care plan is in place for your child.