New Safety Report on Vaccines

Parents are getting better about making sure their children receive all the vaccines they need, but some still worry about side effects. A new study may help relieve some of those concerns.

A systematic review of research on vaccine safety, published online July 1 in the journal Pediatrics, updates a 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the safety of vaccines recommended for children aged six years and younger. The study is part of a larger report on the safety of vaccines for adults, adolescents and children requested by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Researchers found that side effects from childhood vaccines are rare. They also noted no ties between the vaccines to autism or childhood leukemia.

The researchers did find that some vaccines did cause a few adverse effects but it was only for a tiny fraction of the population.

There was evidence that the meningococcal vaccine can lead to anaphylaxis -- a severe, whole-body allergic reaction -- in children allergic to ingredients in the vaccine. Other studies found the MMR vaccine was linked to seizures.

The majority of child health care experts agree that the positive effects outweigh the bad.

An editorial accompanying the study calls vaccines "one of the most successful public health achievements of the 20th century."

In countries that promote childhood vaccinations, diseases that formerly killed or injured children have all but been eliminated.

"There were good reasons that these diseases were targeted for vaccine development since they are so life-threatening," said Carrie Byington, M.D., vice-chair for research in the University of Utah's pediatrics department, and the new chair for the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases.

A vaccine for smallpox led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare the disease eradicated in 1978. Prior to a vaccination for diphtheria, it was one of the most common causes of illness and death among children. Now it is rarely reported in the United States.

If you have any concerns about the vaccines your child is scheduled to receive, discuss the possible side effects with your pediatrician or family physician.

Sources Jen Christensen, Nadia Kounang

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