July 19, 2014—The idea of dosing a small child with a powerful vaccine can make any parent feel cautious. However, a new review of existing research suggests that when it comes to tots and shots, the benefits far outweigh any risks.
About the study
This isn’t the first time that the safety of vaccines has been studied. In fact, in 2011, the Institute of Medicine conducted research on this topic, and this new study builds on that one.
Requested by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this review compiled data from 67 separate studies. The new findings will be published in the journal Pediatrics, and the results support the conclusions of the 2011 study. Both found that the risks associated with early-childhood vaccinations are low.
The review’s lead author, Margaret Maglione, and her team found:
- No link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
- No link between childhood leukemia and the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); polio; MMR; tetanus; influenza; or hepatitis B vaccinations.
Although researchers identified occasional adverse reactions to vaccinations, most were mild, like swelling at the injection site or fever. The researchers did note moderate evidence of:
- A link between the vaccine for hepatitis A and the skin discoloration purpura in kids aged 7 to 17 years.
- A link between the rotavirus vaccine and intussusception, a bowel disorder.
- A link between the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and febrile seizures, which is augmented when the vaccine is given at the same time as the TIV vaccine (used to prevent influenza).
These rare side effects sound imposing, but the risk is low—especially in comparison to the illnesses these vaccines prevent.
Impact on your family
Understanding the risks and benefits of vaccines isn’t easy, and with so much conflicting information out there, it’s important to keep lines of communication open with your child’s doctor. During your visit, the doctor can address any concerns you might have and help you schedule—and stick with—a vaccination calendar for your family.
Vaccinations are available for:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
- Measles, mumps and rubella.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b.
- Chickenpox (varicella).
- Hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal infection.
- Strains of bacterial meningitis.
When your child receives a vaccine, the immune system gets a boost, as vaccines contain dead or weakened versions of the substances that cause a specific disease. These substances can’t make your child ill, but they can help the immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies will help your child fend off the disease in the future if he or she is exposed to it. Plus, vaccines help keep everyone safe by wiping out serious diseases.
Your doctor can discuss with you any concerns you have about vaccinating your child. For example, some kids with certain types of cancer or who take drugs that lower their ability to fight infection should avoid certain vaccines. Your doctor can also help if your child does have a reaction to a vaccine.
Work with your physician to protect your loved ones. The health of your family—and your community—depends on up-to-date vaccinations.