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A systematic review that has reported on vaccine safety has concluded that adverse events associated with routine vaccines are extremely rare, and that there are not ties between vaccination and autism or leukemia.

Routine vaccination has resulted in the control of diseases such as polio, measles, and rubella, to name a few. The controversy surrounding child and infant immunization has left many parents and caregivers confused and concerned. These concerns regarding the safety of vaccines have sometimes resulted in parents declining to immunize their children which, in turn, has led to the resurgence of diseases like measles and pertussis. For example, a 2010 study showed a resurgence of whooping cough in California caused the highest number of cases than had been seen since 1947. In addition, an outbreak of measles has recently been reported in Washington, US, and Vancouver, Canada. There is also some controversy regarding the association between routine vaccination and the onset of autism, which has been fostered by support from high profile celebrities, causing confusion for parents and caregivers.

Published online on July 1st 2014, a systematic review was carried out to determine the safety of vaccines used for routine immunization of children aged 6 years and younger in the United States. These include: DTap (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), influenza (live attenuated and inactivated), meningococcal (conjugate or polysaccharide), rotavirus, and varicella. The study reports on systematically reviewing the scientific evidence, and the statistical associations found between vaccination and adverse events.

The authors report that the results may help to ease the concern of parents and caregivers regarding the relative risks of immunizing their children against common, communicable diseases. In agreement with previous studies on the topic, they report strong evidence that there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism in children. In addition, they also report strong evidence that MMR, DTaP, Td, Hib, and hepatitis B vaccines are not associated with childhood leukemia. The study does, however, find an association between vaccines and some adverse events. Among these adverse events, the study found some evidence for anaphylaxis in children who are allergic to ingredients in the meningococcal vaccine. In addition, there is some evidence that a subset of children vaccinated with the polio vaccine have an elevated risk of developing sensitivity to food allergens. There was also some evidence to suggest that MMR vaccine was linked with seizures. While these kinds of adverse events are extremely rare, more common adverse events include sore arm and redness at the site of injection. The authors state that the more severe adverse events are extremely rare, and therefore should be weighed against the benefit that routine vaccinations have provided in protecting against multiple potentially devastating communicable diseases.

Courtney Gidengil Chari, Sydne Newberry, Roberta Shanman, Tanja Perry, Matthew Bidwell Goetz and Margaret A. Maglione, Lopamudra Das, Laura Raaen, Alexandria Smith, Ramya. “Safety of Vaccines Used for Routine Immunization of US Children: A Systematic Review”PediatricsDOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-1079 ; originally published online July 1, 2014.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /


Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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