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Some people question the safety of
immunizations for children. Although minor discomfort
sometimes follows vaccine injections, research does not support claims that
immunizations put a child at any significant risk for harmful side effects. The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine information statements list the side effects of each vaccine.
The risk of a serious complication from a disease is far
greater than the risk from the vaccine. For example, 1 child in a group of 20 children may die from diphtheria disease. But only 1 child in a group of 14,000 children may have convulsions or shock after getting the DTaP vaccine. And that child would recover fully.1
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully evaluates all vaccines for
safety. After a vaccine is approved, the FDA, the CDC, the vaccine maker, and several other agencies watch for any reports of rare or unexpected reactions. Federal law requires health professionals to report any reaction
following an immunization to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). For more information about how vaccine safety is checked, see www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html.
Immunizations are safe even if your
Immunizations may be given to pregnant women, except for
Some people have voiced concern about
immunizations when multiple vaccines for different
diseases are given at the same time. These people fear that harmful side
effects are more likely because the child's
immune system is not able to combat all of the vaccine
organisms at the same time.
Getting more than one shot (injection)
of vaccine at the same time may seem like a lot to handle. But babies have
billions of immune system cells in their bodies. Beginning at birth, the immune
system actively responds to hundreds of thousands of invading organisms.
After careful study, more and more vaccines are being combined into a
single shot, such as the measles-mumps-rubella shot (MMR). Combining vaccines
means fewer shots need to be given. In most cases, each vaccine provides the same protection that it would if it had been given alone.2
The U.S. Advisory Committee on
Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend
that in one doctor visit a child get all of the vaccines needed at his or her
The CDC and the FDA continue to study vaccines.
Although the risk of problems from vaccines is already extremely low, these
agencies watch for any reports of rare or unexpected reactions.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about the safety of
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (2007, accessed November 2011). Some common misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). General recommendations on immunization: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR, 60(RR-02): 1–60. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr6002.pdf?source=govdelivery.
Other Works Consulted
Orenstein WA, Pickering LK (2011). Immunization practices. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 881–895. Philadelphia: Saunders.
August 14, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & William Atkinson, MD, MPH - Public Health and Preventive Medicine
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