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Should you be afraid of vaccines? No!

Posted by Stuart Rose on

Are vaccines risky?

The short answer is “No”—in fact, they are life-saving. The benefits far outweigh the risks. But some people (many of whom seem quite bright) have an irrational bias against “shots”—even to the extent of denying their children this protection.

Some Facts:

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the Institute of Medicine all agree that there's no relationship between autism and vaccines.

A 2004 Institute of Medicine review included five large-scale studies that compared autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. These and other recent studies, including one published in TheNew England Journal of Medicine in September 2007, have shown that children who received vaccines with thimerosal are not more likely to have been diagnosed with autism than those that weren't vaccinated or received less thimerosal from vaccines.

Researchers found no evidence of an increased risk for Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) after vaccinations of any type, including influenza vaccination.

Case reports have linked a variety of vaccine types to GBS. The only clear association, however, has been with the 1976 A/New Jersey swine influenza vaccine, when a small but significant increase in the number of GBS cases was seen 6 weeks after vaccination. Since that time, investigations have shown either no risk or a very small attributable risk of GBS in roughly 1 case per million doses.

What actually precipitates most cases of GBS? About two thirds of cases are preceded by a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection, with Campylobacter enteritis being the most common trigger. Also implicated are influenza virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, and Mycoplasma pneumonia.

The researchers also found no cases of GBS resulting from vaccines given mainly in childhood, despite the large number of doses given. These included the oral polio vaccine (1.2 million doses), measles-mumps-rubella (1.6 million), conjugated pneumococcal (1.3 million), live attenuated influenza (69,000), diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (1.9 million), varicella (764,000), Haemophilus-diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (525,000), and Haemophilus B vaccines (1.2 million)

Final note: Immunizations are the most important methods we have to prevent infection and improve health. However, too often, people hear of someone who had an illness temporarily associated with having received an immunization. By nature, we as humans try to make associations, and therefore the immunization often takes the blame, even if it had nothing to do with the problem. Anecdotal cases always have this risk, so it is important to look at large numbers, not just one person, to see if a vaccine is truly to blame or not."


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