Although over 90% of parents vaccinate their children according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule, some still wonder if the number of vaccines their child receives at such a young age is safe. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 parents have refused or delayed vaccinations because they are unsure of the safety of the schedule, and approximately one-third of parents continue to question whether the combination of numerous vaccines administered in these early months are somehow responsible for triggering autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
While the question of “too many, too soon” is a common parental concern, there is new scientific evidence published today in the Journal of Pediatrics that demonstrates these concerns to be unfounded. This latest study provides additional confirmation that there is no association between receiving “too many vaccines too soon” and autism and further strengthen a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2004 that concluded there was no causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism, as well as the recent 2013 IOM Report on Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety that concluded that the full vaccine schedule was safe.
This new research specifically investigated the concern of antigens – the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies that fight diseases. The study examines the impact of the varying amounts of antigens that children may be exposed to during their first two years of life. Since vaccines for various diseases contain different amounts of antigens, and various vaccines that protect against the same infectious agents may contain varying amounts of antigens, the research had to go beyond simply counting the number of vaccines a child received to be valid. Instead, researchers developed a system to adequately account for different vaccine and vaccine combinations by looking at the cumulative exposure each child had to various antigens.
Researchers not only considered the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, but also the total number of antigens they received by two years of age. They did this by analyzing data from 256 children with ASD and 752 children without ASD, all born between 1994-1999 and who were 6-13 years old at the time of data collection. What they found was that the total antigens from vaccines received by two years of age, as well as the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD.
In short, Dr. Frank DeStefano, the lead author of this research paper, states,
“Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism.” Read more…
Nothing gets more attention in the immunization arena than a conversation about vaccines and autism. While this discussion is one that many feel has been exhausted and more than adequately investigated, vaccine safety concerns continue to remain one of the main reasons parents elect not to vaccinate their children. Each day, as new babies are born and more children are diagnosed with autism, questions of vaccine safety rush front and center for a new set of parents.
While there is a long history of anti-vaccine sentiment, the suggested link between vaccines and autism was largely prompted by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, back in 1998 when he suggested a possible relationship between bowel disease, autism, and the MMR vaccine. After adequately investigating the topic of vaccines and autism, many parents have come to understand that their concerns are unwarranted.
The bottom line is that the vaccine/autism controversy took hold when a poorly designed study, conducted by a disingenuous Andrew Wakefield who had been paid by a law board to find out if there was evidence to support a litigation case by parents who believed that the vaccine had harmed their children, suggested that there may be a link to autism and the MMR vaccine. Yet, Wakefield’s fraudulent study was ultimately discarded. Not only was his study too small to be scientifically significant, but his findings were never able to be replicated and in 2010, the Lancet formally retracted the paper after the British General Medical Council ruled against Wakefield in several areas. Wakefield was struck from the medical register in Great Britain and may no longer practice medicine there.
Unfortunately, while Wakefield may have lost his medical license, he did succeed at instilling doubt and fear into the hearts of parents; then and now. Some people are still concerned there’s a link between vaccines and autism, and an enormous amount of time, energy and money continues to be spent trying to undo the damage Wakefield has done. While no study has ever produced any scientifically supported connection between vaccines and autism, doubts still exist for some.
This is why we are still discussing vaccines and autism today. This is also why both immunization and autism advocacy organizations must continually educate the public about this topic. As an example, both Vaccinate Your Baby and the Autism Science Foundation provide a comprehensive list of vaccine/autism studies; none of which show any link between the two. However, earlier today the CDC released new information about the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and this report is bound to spark conversations in the immunization world today. Read more…
There is no doubt in my mind that the safety of vaccines will always be in question. It’s a good thing actually. Since vaccines are administered to almost every child born in the United States, vaccine safety should be rigorously tested and held to a higher standard than any other medical treatments on the market. And they are.
Consider this. Vaccines safety testing is a long and arduous process.
• It can take 10 or more years and an average of $800 million of manufacturers’ money before a new vaccine is thoroughly tested, licensed and made available to the public.
• The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) has collected statistics from more than 7 million people who have received vaccines.
• In 1990, the CDC and the FDA established the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which gathers information about any side effects patients have experienced. Since VAERS accepts any reported information without determining a cause and effect relationship, this information is investigated further and used to identify possible safety concerns.
• Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Centers (CISA), which were started in 2001, also conduct clinical research about vaccine adverse events (VAE) to help ensure there are no safety concerns.
• Finally, all vaccines are subjected to concomitant studies before they are approved for use. This means that all new vaccines must be tested in conjunction with existing ones to ensure there are no negative interactions. Regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are careful to look for any side effects associated with concomitant use before approving a new vaccine.
Despite these safeguards, some people have remained concerned over the safety of the full childhood immunization schedule. Even after repeated reports that vaccines are generally very safe and serious adverse events are quite rare, people still wonder if the large number of vaccines might overload a child’s immune system. They continue to raise questions as to whether the immunization schedule can be tied to such chronic health conditions as asthma, allergies, developmental disorders, autism and other conditions. This is why the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) recently commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine the safety of the entire recommended childhood immunization schedule.
To do this, the IOM analyzed all the current research literature on this topic, reviewed the studies and verified enormous amounts of data. After which they reached an undeniable conclusion. The recommended schedule is safe. Read more…
Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two, offers insight on an important global decision regarding thimerosal in vaccines.
Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics is supporting the World Health Organization’s position to continue to use the preservative thimerosal to vaccinate children in developing nations.
As our readers are most likely aware, thimerosal was removed from the majority of vaccines provided to infants and children in the U.S. due to concerns that this mercury-based preservative could cause detrimental effects. So why would the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) support the continued use of thimerosal in foreign countries? The simple answer is that thimerosal is a safe and necessary component of vaccines and that millions of lives would be lost if efforts to ban it globally were to succeed. But the story behind the decision is not as simple.
Thimerosal…what is it, and how did that one word spread havoc in the hearts of a nation at the outset of the new millennium?
Thimerosal is an ethyl mercury based preservative that prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi. The preservative was included in all multi-dose vials of vaccines to eliminate the chances of contamination, which could occur as syringe needles are reinserted into multi-dose vials. This contamination has the potential to cause severe reactions at the site of the injections, as well as serious illness and even death, hence the need for a stable preservative in the vials.
Up until the late 1990s many of the vaccines used in the U.S were in multi-dose vials and therefore included thimerosal. The Food and Drug Modernization Act of 1997 required that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review mercury content in all biological products. The review noted that the cumulative amounts of ethyl mercury found in the vaccine series given to young infants could potentially exceed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. It is important to note that the EPA’s standards were stricter than those of the FDA or the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (TSDR). Vaccines did not surpass the levels set forth by either the FDA or TSDR.
In response to the EPA findings, the AAP and US Public Health Service (USPHS) called for the elimination of mercury in vaccines as a precautionary measure. Manufacturers responded by altering production procedures to create single dose vials of those vaccines that were formerly stored in multi-dose vials. The only vaccine for children that currently contains thimerosal are some doses of influenza vaccination – a necessary decision due to the need to rapidly disseminate vaccines, particularly in face of serious pandemics of influenza. Most people are unaware that several vaccines, including MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, never contained thimerosal in the first place.
As it turns out, the EPA standards were set for methyl mercury, commonly found in fish and wildlife, which are themselves contaminated through environmental mercury pollution. Methyl mercury, which accumulates in the body at least seven times longer than ethyl mercury, has been proven to cause adverse neurodevelopmental effects.
What we have learned.
In the time since the decision was made to remove thimerosal from vaccines, numerous studies have been conducted worldwide to determine the effects of thimerosal on infants and children. These studies have found no evidence that the preservative causes harm to infants or children. Special attention has been focused on the question of whether the removal of thimerosal from vaccines would result in a rapid decline in autism cases. This was not the case; even with the decline in use of thimerosal containing vaccines, autism rates continued to climb.
It was hoped that by clarifying the difference between methyl and ethyl-mercury, the lack of that one letter “m” in front of the word describing a dangerous compound, the fears of a nation would be alleviated…no such luck! Read more…
Today I’m concluding a week’s worth of flu-related posts with the wildly entertaining, never-to-be-outdone, ZDoggMD.
Yes, known throughout the land (or throughout the hippest of the kids in the U.S. medical community anyway), ZDoggMD is a soon-to-be legend for his humorous attempts at musical parodies. But rest assured, he is no newbie to the immunization scene. No splash in the pan. No. He has attacked many vaccine related issues in his highly questionable past. But be forewarned. With his elaborate wigs and mildly inappropriate lyrics, I suspect he may be a long-lost relative of Weird Al Yankovic. However, I must reassure you that he is considerably more attractive than Al (you can thank me later Z) and immensely more knowledgeable. Especially in regard to all the accurate medical stuff.
As the mother of five daughters – two of which are mildly obsessed with the immensely popular English-Irish boy band One Direction, and all of which are singers and musicians themselves - I anticipate that this video by ZDoggMD will be an inspiration (at least to my kids). And since my children have already gotten their flu shots, it’s more likely that this video will inspire them to create some parodies of their own. Before long I’ll probably be scratching my head, wondering how to respond to their bizarre desire to “be just like ZDoggMD” when they grow up. I guess my first bit of advice will be to shave their heads and get a medical degree.
So here is the clever ZDoggMD, with “One Injection”, a video parody of the One Direction song “What Makes You Beautiful”, singing about the importance of flu vaccination, while also taking a jab at a few of those unfounded flu myths.
As we wrap up National Influenza Vaccination Week, think about what you can do to encourage others to get their flu vaccine.
OK. Maybe you’re not as creative and talented as ZDoggMD. But don’t fret.
All we ask is that you share the information that we’ve provided this week and suggest that people get their flu vaccine this year and every year. Thanks again, and here’s hoping you stay flu free!
Recently we received this question on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page:
“My daughter and one of our friend’s daughters are the same age – 15months. I vaccinate, she doesn’t. She is trying to say that if my daughter gets the chickenpox vaccine, then it’s possible that she could give her child the chickenpox from shedding. My daughter hasn’t had the vaccine yet, but if she did, is that possible?”
The following response has been provided by Dr. Lara Zibners:
Firstly, well done on choosing to protect not only your child but the more vulnerable fellow humans she may come in contact with. Before we started routinely giving kids the chickenpox (varicella virus) shot, there were about 4 million cases annually resulting in about 100 preventable deaths every year. Think about that. Four million cases and only 100 deaths sounds pretty low risk, doesn’t it? Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the 10,000 hospitalizations every year. You know, for little things like serious skin infections, including the dreaded flesh-eating bacteria, bone infections, blood infections, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, transverse myelitis, thrombocytopenia and stroke. Stuff like that. (I purposely threw a bunch of big words in there because they sound scary. And, to be honest, they are.)
So congratulations on making an informed and intelligent choice. I could go on and on about the risk to babies too young to be vaccinated, the truly devastating complications of varicella infection during pregnancy, and how time-tested and proven this vaccine is (clue: I’m pretty sure I was still wearing a diaper, at least at night, when it was first being tested. And in case you are wondering, I’m at an age where diapers are once again looming in my rapidly-nearing future). But, I won’t. Because that’s not your question. You already know that choosing to vaccinate your child against chickenpox means a 99% reduction in the risk of infection. Your question is whether a child who gets the chickenpox shot can infect another child. And that is a perfectly valid question to ask, I think. Read more…