This is part 2, continued from Vaccines
There are two main concerns about the safety of vaccines: the MMR vaccine, and the preservative thimerosal.
For years, there has been some controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine. Responsible parents don’t want to hurt their kids, so if the vaccine causes health problems, we don’t want to subject our kids to it.
In 1998, a respected medical journal, The Lancet, published a paper suggesting a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Then in 2004, The Lancet published a retraction by ten of the paper’s thirteen authors – a retraction because those authors wanted to make it clear that there was not evidence that the vaccine was unsafe; people were misinterpreting the small study’s write-up.
In 2010, the entire paper was retracted. It simply is not true that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Both the “research” and paper were fraudulent. For some truly shocking information, read How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed and Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent.
The MMR vaccine, like any medication, can have side effects.
- 1 in 6 kids get a temporary fever
- 1 in 20 will get a temporary mild rash
- on rare occasions, kids will experience mild swelling of the neck/cheeks about a week after getting the vaccine
- 1 in 3000 kids will have seizures due to fever (vs. 3-6 in the same sized group who will die from the disease)
- some people have joint pain due to the vaccine; it is temporary
- 1 in 30,000 people have a temporary low platelet count due to the vaccine
- Less than one in a million people vaccinated experience a severe allergic reaction due to the vaccine
The alternative is much scarier. Survivors blind, fighting pneumonia, maybe sterile; hundreds of thousands of children dead.
The MMR vaccine isn’t the only safety question regarding childhood immunizations. The other big issue is that of preservatives, mainly thimerosal.
Obviously it doesn’t help to prevent a given disease (diphtheria, for example), only to have the patient die of a different infection because the medicine was contaminated. If a doctor’s office has a vial that holds twenty doses, then twenty different times a needle will be inserted into the vial and a dose drawn out. In a perfect world, this would always remain sterile; here in the real world, as a safeguard to keep fungi and bacteria from growing in vaccines, small amounts of an antiseptic/preservative were added.
When very few vaccines were available, this wasn’t a significant problem because kids got very little of that preservative. As more and more vaccines became available, the amount of preservative given to young children increased. People became concerned that the accumulated doses might be harmful. The evidence appears to say no, but to err on the side of caution, pharmaceutical companies were asked to stop using this preservative. Some vaccines contain only trace amounts, others have none. For those vaccines that still contain small amounts of this preservative, patients can specifically request thimerosal-free vaccines (single-dose vials as opposed to multi-dose vials).
A look at the data on individual vaccines shows that the vaccines are much safer than the diseases.
- Hepatitis A - my two oldest have had this vaccine, the younger ones have not
- Hepatitis B
- Chickenpox - since I’ve never had chickenpox, I made sure my kids got this vaccine
- Rubella (German Measles) – part of the MMR vaccine
- Mumps - I remember having mumps as a child, and am happy to spare my kids the experience
- HPV - no matter how confident I am in my kids’ ability to make good choices, there are no guarantees that a person’s future spouse will have always made good choices
- Rotavirus - this is new; none of my kids have had this vaccine
For more information:
- Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children
- Retraction of an Interpretation
Written for a friend who asked my opinion on vaccines.
Possibly one more vaccine post in the works, but that’s not going to be the focus of this blog.