Parents worried about having their children vaccinated take note: a new study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics has found that immunization-related side-effects are extremely rare, and that there is no evidence linking them to serious health issues such as leukemia or autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
According to Liz Szabo of USA Today, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the RAND Corporation in California analyzed 67 different research studies and found “strong evidence” that the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine was safe.
“Our findings support that vaccines are very safe for children, and add to a substantial body of evidence that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the very low risks,” senior author Dr. Courtney Gidengil, an associate physician scientist at RAND Corporation and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told WebMD HealthDay News reporter Dennis Thompson. “Hopefully, this will engage hesitant parents in discussions with their health care providers.”
The purported link between the MMR vaccine and autism is due primarily to a 1998 study that has since been debunked and retracted, largely because it was found that the paper’s author had altered some of the results, Thompson said. In 2011, a US Institute of Medicine report on vaccine safety said that they could cause side effects, but that serious ones were extremely rare, added Associated Press Medical Writer Mike Stobbe.
For their analysis, Dr. Gidengil and her colleagues selected studies that only used active surveillance and had a control mechanism included, and excluded those that involved formulations not used in the US. In addition to concluding that the MMR vaccine was not associated with autism, they also found no link between childhood leukemia and the MMR, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), tetanus, influenza and hepatitis B vaccines.
The researchers also explained in background material that doctors are struggling to maintain a high enough immunization rate to prevent outbreaks, and that parents refusing to have young children vaccinated have contributed to the spread of preventable diseases such as measles and whoopin cough, said Thompson.
“Experts say such risks need to be balanced against the benefits of vaccines,” reported Stobbe. “But that message seems lost on some parents. A small but growing numbers of parents have tried to get their children exempted from school attendance vaccination requirements. And one recent study found vaccine safety messages actually reduced some parents’ willingness to get their kids vaccinated.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 500 people in 20 different states have been infected with measles in 2014, said Szabo. She added that an April CDC report claimed that vaccines given to infants and young children over the past 20 years would prevent over 300 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.
The study also confirmed that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and fever-triggered seizures, which can panic parents but rarely lead to long-term health issues, the AP said. The authors also reported that flu shots can also result in seizure-causing fevers, and that those incidents typically occur more frequently in children who also receive an immunization against pneumococcal bacteria the same day.
“Newer vaccines against rotavirus, a severe diarrheal disease in children, slightly raise the risk of a rare bowel blockage,” Stobbe added. “The risks of serious side effects were deemed very low. For example, the rotavirus vaccines were linked to no more than five extra cases of the blockage for every 100,000 kids vaccinated.”
RedOrbit & Pediatrics