Study: Childhood Vaccines Generally Safe, Severe Side Effects Rare

Childhood vaccines are generally safe, and the risk of severe side effects is very rare, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In addition, the study did not find any evidence that childhood vaccines cause autism or childhood leukemia (Stobbe, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/30).

For example, there still is no evidence the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism. Nor is there any proof vaccines cause childhood leukemia. 

For the study, researchers from RAND and Boston Children's Hospital examined 67 medical studies of vaccinations (Szabo, USA Today, 7/1). The data, taken from research conducted since 2011, mirror an Institute of Medicine report that concluded that serious side effects from vaccines are very rare.

While the risk for severe side effects is low, the report found:

  • A link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and fever-triggered seizures;
  • Flu shots can cause fevers that trigger seizures; and
  • Vaccines for rotavirus, a diarrheal disease in children, can increase the risk of bowel blockage.

Study co-author Courtney Gidengil noted, "I don't think this report, alone, will convince parents that vaccines are safe." However, it might convince their family doctors, whom parents trust, some experts noted. The researchers added that physicians and parents can discuss the risks and benefits of vaccines (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/1).

Ms. Jahnke -- Thank you for your comment. This article has been updated to clarify that the study did not find any evidence that childhood vaccines cause autism or childhood leukemia. -- The Editors

judith Wright
The FDA acknowledges that all vaccines are studied for safety by comparing with another vaccine - not placebo. It is also acknowledged that studies are never done comparing vaccinated vs unvaccinated. The severity of Adverse Reactions are inconsistently reported due to there being no compulsory reporting and only 1 - 10% of adverse events are reportedn to VAERS.. The majority of studies did not investigate or identify risk factors for Adverse Events. Some vaccines are associated with serious adverse events. Considering that most adverse events are dismissed or not reported, it does not really give parents a sense of confidence. "Limitations of the study include that the majority of studies did not investigate or identify risk factors for AEs; and the severity of AEs was inconsistently reported. CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence that some vaccines are associated with serious AEs"
Lauren Jahnke
I must point out the mistake in the first line of this article--it is true that the risk of severe side effects from vaccines is very rare, but it should NOT say "such as autism or leukemia"--the study explicitly states it found NO risk of either of these conditions from the many studies it reviewed, so it is misleading and harmful to imply that these things could be side effects but are rare. This just adds doubts in people's minds and gives fuel to the anti-vaccine parents who still think that they can cause these conditions even with no evidence. This needs to be corrected to say that severe side effects are rare and that there is no association between childhood vaccines and autism and leukemia. Please see the following links for the original article in Pediatrics, and for a longer more accurate summary article:

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