Vaccines are in fact not 100% safe. Although the benefits may strongly outweigh the risk, it is always important to understand the risks and the benefits that have been proven and studied, and not those thrown around baselessly by celebrities. Throughout this post I would like to provide a short summary of some of the risks that have been found to come along with vaccines, and explore just how common they are.
We begin by looking at the vaccine for Rotavirus.
Rotavirus is a virus known to cause gastroenteritis, or in plain language a very upset stomach. In children it can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration. Young children usually have much more severe symptoms than older children or adults that are infected with the disease. According to vaccines.gov, before the implementation of the vaccine, rotavirus was responsible for more than 400,000 doctor visits, more than 200,000 emergency room visits, 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and 20 to 60 deaths per year in children younger than five years of age.
There are 2 patented vaccines, RotaTeq (RV5) which is given 3 times at 2, 4, and 6 months along with Rotarix (RV1) which is given twice at 2 and 4 months respectively.
The issue has been raised if the rotavicus vaccine increased the chances of intussusception. Intussusception is problem with the intestines in which the intestines folds over on itself creating a telescope effect. It can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms including pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and fever. If caught and diagnosed properly the prognosis is very good.
A large study in the US estimated that the increased risk of intussusception was 1.1 to 1.5 cases per 100,000 doses of RotaTeq and 5.1 cases per 100,000 doses of Rotarix. It’s important to note that more than 1.2 million doses in total were taken into account for RotaTeq, and just over 100,000 doses of Rotarix were counted. The implications are the statistical inaccuracies for Rotarix, which had less than 1/10 of the doses to monitor. To put these numbers into perspective, there are about 33 cases per 100,000 of intussusception in the US.
The bottom line: The rotavirus vaccine may increase the risk for intussusception in children from 0.033% to .038% at the most extreme scenario.
The next vaccine that I want to review is the MMR(V), or Measles, Mumps and Rubella (and Varicella, you probably know it as the Chickenpox)
As I am sure that many of you are aware, the great controversy about vaccinations at all was over the concern that the MMR vaccine causes Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. This myth began from a fake study published in 1998. In fact the hypothesis that there was any connection at all started 2 years earlier with a study claiming that the MMR vaccine can cause gastritis, or stomach infections. The researcher went on to hypothesize that this persistent infection may have neurological effects, specifically autism, however the public debate didn’t gain momentum until 1998. Rising rates of ASD diagnosis, along with rising rates of vaccinations supported these theories. In 1992 1 in 150 children was diagnosed with ASD, but by 2004 that number jumped to 1 in 68. Celebrities began to talk about this by telling personal stories that they know of, including Donald Trump. Vaccination rates all over the world dropped drastically.
The study has been vigorously studied since. In 2004 the National Academies Press released ‘Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism‘. This was the 8th and final report based on mounds of data that they had collected. “The committee concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.” The concern that too many vaccines in young infants can cause other neurological consequences was also debunked with a study completed in 2010. There was no difference in babies that received all of their vaccines on time to those who were delayed. Finally, the largest study was published in 2014, including over 1.2 million children. They concluded absolutely no relationship between autism and vaccines, not MMR specifically or any component of the vaccine.
A number of studies have also been conducted to determine if there is a connection between the MMRV vaccine and increased risk for febrile seizures. In 2015 a summary of findings was published. 31/39 studies that were reviewed found no findings to support the increased risk of febrile seizures. A compilation of the remaining 8 studies found that there is a slight increased risk for children between the ages of 10-24 months to have a febrile seizure up until 14 days after the vaccination is administered. Other studies further explored different contributing factors to these findings, and concluded that parents who waited until their children were between the ages of 16-23 months to receive the first does of the vaccination increased their risk for a febrile seizure by almost 3 times. Current recommendations are for the first dose of MMRV to be given somewhere between 12-15 months, and the second between 4-6 years.
Febrile seizures are quite common in children under the age of 5, and are usually not dangerous. These are seizures caused by high temperatures, which are usually caused by different infections. The MMRV vaccine specifically tries to reduce some of the dangerous infections that children are susceptible to receiving, so the benefits in this situation irrefutably outweigh the risks.
These are the main side effects for vaccines given to infants. It’s important to note that immunodeficient individuals are not included here in this article, and that if you know of an immunodeficiency you should seek professional advice from your physician. In addition there are always minor side effects such as local pain and redness, nausea and fevers, though this article covers the major ones.
Knowledge is power. It’s very important for each of us to understand what our options are, and what evidence supports each option. Preventing diseases before they start is often the most efficient way to be healthy, and this starts by screening for the diseases that are appropriate for us depending on age, gender, and other factors. Download our app to go through a short list of questions, and receive a personalized list of the appropriate screening recommendations for you. More information about each of these tests is provided through the app (‘click here’ links), so that you can stay informed and educated.