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VACCINATIONS - Everything You Should Know About Vaccinations

Everything you should
                    know about vaccinations

We are going to start with the number one question many parents ask: Are vaccines linked to autism?

No, the scientific evidence does not support a link between vaccination and autism or other developmental disorders.

Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.

A 2013 CDC study added to the research showing that vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.

One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that "the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism." Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children.

Between 1999 and 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines. This was done as part of a broader national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposure in children before studies were conducted that determined that thimerosal was not harmful. It was done as a precaution. Currently, the only childhood vaccines that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. Thimerosal-free alternatives are also available for flu vaccine.

Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD as well. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.

Vaccines for Children - A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

Vaccines Overview

Vaccines have contributed to a significant reduction in many childhood infectious diseases, such as diphtheria, measles, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Some infectious diseases, such as polio and smallpox, have been eliminated in the United States due to effective vaccines. It is now rare for children in the United States to experience the devastating and often deadly effects of these diseases that were once common in the United States and other countries with high vaccination coverage.

The vast majority of vaccines are given to healthy babies, children and adults; therefore, it is critical that vaccines be demonstrated to be safe and effective. Ensuring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is one of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) top priorities. The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) is the center within FDA that has regulatory oversight of vaccines in the United States assuring the availability of safe and effective vaccines.

Because immunization programs of the 20th century were so successful, many of today’s parents have never seen many vaccine-preventable diseases and do not understand the potential for them to re-emerge. If too many individuals choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, some diseases that are now rare or non-existent in this country may resurface.

The viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases and death still exist and can cause disease in people who are not protected by vaccines. For example, although measles has not been constantly present in the United States since 2000, sporadic cases continue to occur, primarily from unvaccinated visitors who are bringing the disease into the United States from other countries or unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning to the U.S. from countries where measles is still common, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. The United States began experiencing a large multi-state measles outbreak in December 2014 that started in California and spread to additional states and Mexico. The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. The initial patients who were confirmed with measles reported visiting two Disneyland Resort Theme Parks in Orange County, California, from December 17 through December 20, 2014. The source of the outbreak is unknown, but it is likely that a traveler (or more than one traveler) who became infected with measles overseas visited one or both of the Disney parks in December during the time that they were infectious.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and can cause severe complications, including pneumonia, swelling of the brain, and death. Outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as measles, serve as a reminder that they are only a plane-ride away and the best way not to get sick is to get vaccinated.

Benefits And Risks

A vaccine is a medication. Like any medicine, vaccines have benefits and risks, and although highly effective, no vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing disease or 100 percent safe in all individuals. Most side effects of vaccines are usually minor and short-lived. For example, a person may feel soreness at the injection site or experience a mild fever. Serious vaccine reactions are extremely rare, but they can happen.

"Parents should know that the risk of being harmed by a vaccine is significantly smaller than the risk of serious illness from infectious diseases," says Marion Gruber, Ph.D., director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review in CBER. "Vaccination is a very important step to get children off to a healthy start."

For more information on potential adverse events or reactions, talk with your healthcare provider, and many vaccines also have FDA-approved labeling for the patient that can be a resource of information. It is important to discuss with your healthcare provider any prior reactions to vaccines and any adverse reactions following vaccination.

Vaccines work by preparing the body’s immune system for future attacks by a certain disease, caused by either viruses or bacteria. Vaccines contain weakened bacteria or viruses, or parts of bacteria or viruses, and mimic these disease-causing agents (which are called antigens). As a result of vaccination, the body’s immune system thinks the antigens from the vaccine are foreign and shouldn’t be in the body, but the antigens don’t cause disease in the person receiving the vaccine. After receiving the vaccine, if the virus or bacteria that cause the real disease then enters the body in the future, the immune system is prepared and responds quickly and forcefully to attack the disease-causing agent to prevent the person from getting sick. Vaccines are frequently given by injection (a shot), but some are given by mouth and one is sprayed into the nose.

Steps to Take When Your Child is Vaccinated

First, review the vaccine information sheets. These sheets explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine. Healthcare providers are required by law to provide them. Also, be aware of the potential consequences of not vaccinating against diseases. Some parents and caregivers are surprised to learn that children can be harmed or die of measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Be sure to let your healthcare provider know of any conditions that might they should be aware of, which might include being sick or having a history of certain allergic or other adverse reactions to previous vaccinations or their components. For example, eggs are used to grow many influenza (flu) vaccines; therefore, it is important to inform the healthcare provider if a child is severely allergic to eggs.

The packaging of some vaccines that are supplied in vials or prefilled syringes may contain natural rubber latex, which may cause allergic reactions in latex-sensitive individuals; therefore, an allergy to latex is helpful to inform healthcare providers of beforehand.

It is also particularly important to discuss with your healthcare provider which vaccines should or should not be given to children who have weakened immune systems.

Report Adverse Reactions!

Adverse reactions and other problems related to vaccines should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is maintained by FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For a copy of the vaccine reporting form, call 1-800-822-7967, or report online to

Why Should My Child Be Vaccinated?

Due to the success of immunization programs, the incidence of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases has declined. Therefore, individuals are less aware of the serious consequences of vaccine preventable illnesses. While vaccines are extremely safe and effective, no medical product is 100 percent safe or effective. Vaccines have been proven, over decades, to be one of the safest and most powerful disease prevention tools available.

Today there are far fewer visible reminders of the suffering, injuries, and premature deaths caused by diseases that can now be prevented with vaccines. For most of the vaccine-preventable diseases, there has been a 95 percent or more reduction in incidence. Routine immunization has eradicated smallpox from the globe and eliminated wild polio virus in this country. Vaccines have reduced preventable infectious diseases to an all-time low and few children suffer the devastating effects of these illnesses.

Prior to approval by FDA, vaccines are extensively tested by scientists to ensure that they are effective and safe. FDA has a stringent regulatory process for licensing vaccines that serves as a model for other countries.

For reasons related to the individual, not all vaccinated persons develop immunity. Most routine childhood vaccines are effective for 85% to 95% of recipients. Differences in the way individual immune systems react to a vaccine account for rare occasions when people are not protected following immunization or when they experience side effects. Vaccines are licensed, after stringent testing and study, because the benefits offered to the individual far outweigh the risk of serious health effects. In fact, some risks for serious health effects following vaccination are so rare that they currently cannot be measured.

Immunization programs optimally prevent the threat of dangerous infectious diseases that threaten the lives of our citizens, especially the Nation's children and elderly. Vaccines are among the 20th century's most successful and cost-effective public health tools for preventing disease, disability, and death.

Can Parents Decide If They Want To Vaccinate Their Children?

Protecting a child through immunization is a parent's decision, taken in discussion with their doctor. The Federal Government may recommend that States develop laws or requirements for vaccines, but whether the State includes a given vaccine in its regulations and how informed consent is to be obtained are State decisions. Currently, 48 States allow religious exemptions to vaccination and 15 allow philosophical exemptions, in addition to the medical contraindications that are the same in all 50 States. The rationale for limiting choice is that vaccinations have been a very effective approach to protecting the public's health in the United States. The first article in a series on ten great achievements in public health in the 20th century highlighted the impact of vaccines universally recommended for children (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; CDC 1999;48:243-48).

Because of high vaccine coverage rates today, one may focus on rare, potentially vaccine-associated adverse effects, but before vaccines were introduced there were over 175,000 cases of diphtheria annually (1920-22), over 147,000 cases of Pertussis (1922-25), and over 503,000 cases of measles (1951-54). More recently, an estimated 20,000 cases of invasive infections such as meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b occurred in 1985. Now, because of vaccination, the number of cases of these infections has been decreased by about 96% to 100%. But lessons from other countries have relevance for the United States - 1) if vaccination rates decrease, the number of cases of infection will increase as occurred in the United Kingdom and Japan after concerns about adverse events associated with the whole cell Pertussis vaccine resulted in decreased immunization (In the U.S. today, less reactogenic acellular Pertussis vaccines are now recommended); and 2) the decrease in disease of 96% to 100% exceeds the level of vaccine coverage. This is because at high vaccination rates, the circulation of a bacteria or virus may be decreased which lessens the chance that even someone who has not been immunized will get disease. This "herd immunity" is important because some persons can not be vaccinated because of illnesses such as cancer and high vaccination rates in the community will protect them from disease.

Article Source - U.S. CDC and U.S. FDA
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