THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- An exhaustive new report
from experts at the Institute of Medicine finds that children's
vaccines are typically safe, with bad reactions occurring only
rarely and then not causing any lasting medical problems.
The IOM committee also agreed that there is no evidence
supporting a connection between certain vaccines and the later
onset of conditions such as autism or type 1 diabetes in kids.
The purported link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
vaccine and autism, especially, has been hotly contested, both in
the media and the courts in recent years. In 2010, the British
researcher behind a 1998 study that was pivotal in suggesting such
a link was accused of fraud and the journal that published it has
since retracted the research.
In its review, the IOM committee examined more than 1,000
studies, looking for problems possibly related to vaccines, such as
seizures, inflammation of the brain and fainting, as well as
"We looked at eight different vaccines and a number of adverse effects, and what we found is that there is very little evidence that vaccines cause adverse events," said committee chair Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, professor of pediatrics and law, and director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University.
"And most of the adverse events that there is evidence for tend to be time-limited," she said.
The report was requested by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services to provide a scientific base for deciding on
compensation for people claiming injury from any of the eight
vaccines covered by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The
program was set up in 1988, and last February the U.S. Supreme
Court upheld the 1986 law that created the program.
The report found evidence that in rare cases the MMR vaccine can
lead to fever-triggered seizures, but these tend not to have
long-term consequences, Clayton noted.
Also in rare cases, the MMR vaccine can cause brain inflammation
in people with severe immune system deficiencies, she added.
In a very few children, the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine can
cause brain swelling, pneumonia, hepatitis, meningitis or shingles.
Most of these problems affect people with immune system
deficiencies that increase susceptibility to the live viruses used
in MMR and varicella vaccines, the report noted.
In addition, the MMR, varicella, influenza, hepatitis B,
meningococcal and tetanus vaccines can cause a severe allergic
reaction called anaphylaxis shortly after injection. In general,
vaccine injections can result in fainting and inflammation of the
shoulder, the committee said.
The evidence for other problems linked to vaccines is less
clear, the report found.
The MMR vaccine might cause short-term joint pain in some women
and children. Some people can have an allergic reaction after
receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical
cancer, and some flu vaccines have resulted in a mild, temporary
Clayton noted that the "MMR vaccine and
diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) do not cause type 1
diabetes, and the MMR vaccine does not cause autism."
In addition, the flu shot does not cause Bell's palsy or worsen
asthma, Clayton said.
But not everyone is convinced by the IOM's findings. Barbara Loe
Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine
Information Center, which has argued for more caution on the
immunization of children, said the research is inadequate to
determine whether vaccines are safe or not.
"You don't have enough studies that are methodologically sound," she said. "Whether the big increases in asthma and ADHD and other brain and immune system disorders among children is wholly or partly due to the fact that they are getting three times as many vaccines as children in the 1970s and early 1980s is a question that can only be answered by methodologically sound science. We are still left with the big question: Why are so many of our highly vaccinated children so sick today?"
Fisher disagrees with the committee's finding on the MMR and
DTaP vaccines, and said she believes they can cause autism and type
1 diabetes. And she believes that parents should have the right not
to have their children vaccinated.
"Vaccines should be available as a preventive health care option for all who voluntarily want to use them," she said. But people should not be required to vaccinate their children, she added.
But Clayton countered that it's important to remember what the
vaccination of children and adults has achieved.
People who are critical of vaccines "don't remember the diseases
that vaccines prevent such as polio, measles and chickenpox,"
Clayton said. And on the other hand, "a lot of the things that
people worry about either don't happen, or there is not enough
evidence to make a conclusion," she said.
Another infectious disease expert agreed. Dr. Marc Siegel, an
associate professor of medicine at New York University, New York
City, said that "current vaccines are safe and the benefits of
protecting against the diseases way outweigh the risk of the
Siegel also noted that vaccines not only protect an individual,
but also protect the general population through what is called
Research is needed to clarify how many vaccines should be given
over what period of time and "if they are all necessary," Siegel
said. "That's something that needs to be considered," he added.
For more information on vaccine safety, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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