Myth-busting evidence: Childhood vaccines

swine-flu-vaccineWhen my son was born, I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about whether he should have the routine childhood vaccinations. I had heard about the potential link between vaccines and autism and some anecdotal reports from other moms about adverse reactions to vaccines. But I wanted to consider all of the evidence on vaccines.

This week, there is new evidence published in the journal Pediatrics about childhood vaccines. This new systematic review updates the evidence included in a 2011 meta analysis published by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.  It includes 67 studies published between 2010 and 2013.

The review found evidence that the following reactions can occur:

– Skin rash
– Allergic reactions to certain vaccine ingredients.
– Seizures associated with a fever.
– Rarely, a stomach problem called intussusception, which involves one portion of the bowel sliding into the next.

(You can learn the reactions associated with specific vaccinations at the American Academy of Pediatrics web site.)

Maybe more importantly, the review found no evidence that childhood vaccines lead to autism or leukemia – two of the most frequentnmisconceptions made by parents. Many fear the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is linked to autism because of a fradulent study in the British journal The Lancet. The journal fully retracted the study in 2010 after media reports that the author manipulated the evidence.

Dr. Carrie Byington, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, wrote an opinion article about the new review, where she points out that the adverse reactions identified were all previously documented and are expected by physicians.

“Fortunately, the adverse events identified by the authors were rare and in most cases would be expected to resolve completely,” she wrote. “This contrasts starkly with the natural infections that vaccines are designed to prevent, which may reduce the quality of life through permanent morbidities, such as blindness, deafness, developmental delay, epilepsy, or paralysis and may also result in death.”

The take-home message: Yes, children can have adverse reactions to vaccines. But those risks are far smaller and the consequences less severe compared to the risk of contracting a serious disease.


  1. Isaac says:

    I make sure my children always get vaccines as necessary.

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