Are vaccines safe?

A lot of parents hear different things about the MMR vaccine (that’s measles, mumps, and rubella) or the flu or chicken pox or pertussis vaccine and wonder “How safe are vaccines?” It’s not a stupid question, given the conflicting information you might hear from different sources.

I’ve been doing research about vaccines and vaccine safety because I recently caught a mild case of pertussis (whooping cough). I also researched vaccines last year as part of my preparation for a trip to Africa. The research that I’ve done leads me to believe that your child is much better off getting vaccinated than not getting a vaccine.

Here’s some data points to help you make up your mind. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a good overview of relevant medical studies (PDF link), including studies of autism and vaccinations:

The concerns regarding vaccine safety have received a great deal of attention by parents, doctors, vaccine manufacturers and the media. Dozens of studies have been performed in the United States and elsewhere. The purpose of this document is to list those studies and provide links to the publications to allow parents and all those who administer or recommend vaccines to read the evidence for themselves. The studies provided have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. These studies do not show any link between MMR vaccine, thimerosal and autism.

A lot of people worry that children might get too many vaccinations. The AAP talks about that as well:

One study published in 2010 was conducted in response to concerns about the total number of vaccines children receive. In this study (the last one listed in this document), researchers found infants who followed the recommended vaccine schedule performed better on 42 different neuropsychological outcomes years later than children who delayed or skipped vaccinations. This should reassure parents that vaccinating their children on schedule is safe and is the best way to protect them from disease.

That’s what the current research says. A lot of people have read about Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who was an author of a controversial paper in 1998 about the MMR vaccine and autism. I suggest you read this story on CNN about recent news concerning Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

The summary is that the Lancet, the original British journal that published the study, retracted the study’s claims in February 2010. Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May 2010. The recent news is that the British medical journal BMJ concluded that the now-retracted study was a fraud. The article about vaccination and autism continues:

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them.

Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he [Wakefield] had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers — a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. ….

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.

Godlee, the journal’s editor-in-chief, said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

I understand that parents want to do the right thing for their child. My research on this issue leads me to believe that parents should make sure their children get vaccinations.

127 Responses to Are vaccines safe? (Leave a comment)

  1. David Hobby

    What, you *and* Gina Trapani with the whooping cough? I am starting to see a web/tech correlation… I gotta get this news to Glenn Beck.

  2. Abdul Baqi

    Thanks for posting this Matt. Being a father of a 2 year old and listening to a lot of people giving conflicting statements your blog post helped clear some confusion.

  3. Daddio

    Although I agree with you on vaccinations, you don’t know anything about what its like to raise an autistic child. All these folks making mockery of parents of children on the spectrum who are grasping at straws because science has not done anything for these kids are so quick to pass judgement.

    1 in 2222 in the 1980s and now 1 in 98 boys will be on the spectrum. Its an epidemic that will soon overwhelm the school system. I go drop my son to class every day. There are mixed race kids, white kids, black kids, brown kids, every color, so yeah the whole genetic thing doesn’t have a lot of bearing given the diverse genetic make up of those that fall on the spectrum. If you don’t know someone with autism, you will…

  4. Thanks for posting this, Matt. Those of us who follow this issue closely are sometimes frustrated by the amount of misinformation about vaccines that gets pushed online. It is good to see more folks going with the science, which unequivocally says that vaccines are very safe.

  5. This whole bunch of vaccination hysteria is idiotic.

    When we were all kids we ALL got vaccinated and you never ever heard of anyone turning autistic. My kids got vaccinated and so did all their friends and relatives, not an autistic in the bunch. My grandkids all got vaccinated and no autism there either, and so did all their friends, cousins, schoolmates, etc.

    The only thing I remember from when I was a kid was the few remaining polio victims that didn’t get vaccinated in time.

    Suddenly out of left field anyone who has an autistic kid is looking for a scapegoat and the next thing you know vaccinations, which save millions of kids from a horrible fate, are being vilified.

    Of course people still think the (K) on Snapple is a symbol of the Klan instead of being (K)osher too, and all sorts of hysteria like gasoline can be “watered down” when gas and water don’t even mix.

    You just can’t talk sense to people that believe any popularized rubbish that comes along.

    Bottom line is if you vaccinate an autistic child they’ll develop autism because they were going to develop autism anyway!

    • GregS

      The number and composition of vaccines changed drastically beginning in the late 1980s. Also, vaccine “cocktails” became the norm. I’ll bet you didn’t have Hep B at birth either. It’s not an equal comparison

  6. Josh Ziering

    If you’re a fan of the magicians turned entertainers Penn and Teller’s show “Bull!#%*” they have a really fascinating half hour show on this.

    I have to say, I’m very glad to see that doctor facing repercussions, I loathe bad science!

    Josh

  7. “What, you *and* Gina Trapani with the whooping cough?”

    David Hobby: that’s what convinced me to write about this. Several people I know recently got whooping cough, but hearing Gina Trapani say that she had whooping cough made me say “Okay, I have to write a blog post about this.”

    IncrediBILL, you have strong feelings, but a lot of parents are wrestling with this and aren’t sure which sources to trust. Please be nice so that people don’t feel like they’re getting yelled at as they do research. :)

  8. Jimmy Wirsborg

    Well those vaccines that’s been tested for years even generations I don’t think we have to feel insecure about. Like IncrediBILL states everyone more or less in the entire “rich” part of the world have been vaccinated.

    But with the swineflu and the vaccine for that it seemed media blew the disease out of proportion (with some help from drugcompanies) and people vaccinated with an more or less untested vaccine. Sweden where I’m from have started seeing links between that vaccine and iirc insomnia.

    So it’s the new vaccines and with the panic that drugcompanies try and push them out that parents should be careful with. And grown-ups as well. The panic probably killed more people than the flu ever did.

  9. Mark Biernat

    Matt, I am with you on this one.
    As much as I am into a healthy lifestyle, and I think America is an over medicated society,’a pill for ever woe’, there is no way I would not vaccinate my child. As a parent you have a responsibility to protect your child and this includes vaccinating them.
    I think life expectancies in the last 1,000 years have increased mostly because people survive childhood illnesses with the help of vaccines.
    This is a well written post. I like it when people go one step further and write a post with a little research.

  10. Thanks for the article and the links. I put it as a comment to my recent post looking at aluminum in vaccines: http://skyl.org/log/post/skyl/2010/11/aluminum-in-the-vaccine-schedule-recommended-by-the-american-academy-of-pediatrics/. I still have to worry about injecting over a mg of aluminum into a 6 month old. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/125/6/1134 certainly suggests that this worry is unfounded.

  11. Strong feelings? Yelling?

    Matt, I’m an engineer and a science guy, I look at the evidence.

    Wakefield could never show the work, never show the proof, just making unsubstantiated claims. If people doing research into this topic believe unsubstantiated claims from a single source that could never be reproduced by anyone else, well…

    The rest of their research will be anecdotal evidence from people who had autistic children that just happened to get them vaccinated that jumped on this bandwagon.

    TBH, I’d be thrilled if they actually found an environmental cause for autism, like a vaccine, that could be avoided but sadly, to date, that just isn’t the case as children who were never vaccinated also developed autism as well.

    FWIW, if I thought there was a risk do you think I’d have vaccinated my kids or make sure my grandkids got vaccinated as well?

    I’m a risk taker in business, not with family.

    That’s my $0.02 worth.

  12. I think that there are many reasons why we are seeing an increase in autism and I don’t think there has been any valid study that links it to vaccination. I think we just got better at diagnosing autism just like we did with psychiatric disorders. I think that vaccination is critical for having a healthy baby. We know that vaccines have eliminated childhood and adult diseases such as smallpox, hepatitis B, whooping cough, chicken pox and many many more. If we don’t vaccinate our children not only do we put other children at risk but we risk restarting and resurrecting diseases that have been extinguished for years. As a parent of a 7 month old, I have vaccinated my child so I’m not just talking without having the experience. I do feel for the parents of autistic children but I think it is unfair to make the leap that vaccination is the cause. Maybe its cell phones, ever carry your phone in your pocket next to your reproductive organ? Maybe it’s all the microwaves and microwavable food we consume. Maybe it’s all the radio transmissions in the air. Maybe it is because we as a society are having kids later in our life, remember that 30-40 years ago the average age of a first time parent was early twenties it’s now in the early thirties, our DNA is not getting any stronger with age. All I’m saying is that it is safer to be vaccinated because of the disease we know we can prevent than to not vaccinate and know that we risk our kid’s health.

  13. Hi Matt. You may have already done so, but if not, I strongly recommend you read Bad Science (both the website and the book) by Ben Goldacre. He basically comes to the same conclusion as you, after a thorough investigation of the facts at hand as with all topics he covers.
    The book in particular is an enlightening read on a number of subjects and helps to put a lot of medical scares and so-called statistics into perspective.

  14. All medicines and vaccines have side effects. Some are noticeable, some are not. You just have to balance them both with good and bad and make an informed decision just like everything else in life.

  15. Robert

    No offense Matt but you’re not a doctor, biochemist, or even a second year biology student and yet this blog post instantly ranks on page two for “are vaccines safe” because you’re the google guy. Google has a long way to go in returning the most relevant results…

  16. If you want to read more about the former Doctor Wakefield, I can highly recommend Bad Science, which also covers a lot of other poor research, misleading journalism and more importantly helps us spot it.

  17. These aren’t the same experts that originally said the sudden bird deaths were from fireworks, or the scientific community that can’t make up its mind on if eggs or milk is good for you from one year to the next.

    Easy Litmus test:

    Government says its safe = DO NOT USE IT
    Government says don’t worry = TIME TO WORRY
    Government says we need to or else catastrophe will occur = SLIGHT OF HAND, GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO DO SOMETHING ELSE IN THE NAME OF A CAUSE!!

    No wait, maybe these are the same people that say if its HOT outside, its due to MAN MADE global warming, or if it is COLD, its MAN MADE global warming. Too little precipitation, or too much, its MAN MADE global warming!

    If we know nothing about science from history it is that it usually corrects itself several times.

    Richard

  18. It’s strange I just started reading you blog for the last few days and today I have been looking up the mmr jab for my 1yo twins then I pop over too your site and your on about it .

    So far I think I will have the 1st two jabs separate and then try to get a hold of the mumps one separate if I can and have when I can get it

    I iam thinking the problem is from doing the 3 vaccine at once ? If there is a prob

    But I don’t want to take a chance

  19. jG

    Are we back in 2008? How out of date is this!

  20. There’s a game called the Prisoner’s Dilemma which has interesting parallels to vaccination. As long as the vast majority of the population vaccinates, then an individual can opt out and reduce their risk of vaccine side-effects without significantly increasing their risk of getting the disease. However, the more people that use this reasoning, the greater the risk to the population as a whole. And opting out ignores the fact that while no vaccine works 100% of the time, mass vaccination can raise the effective success rate much closer to 100%. This is a kind of network effect.

  21. Jon

    There was an article published by Wired magazine about one year ago that covered this topic quite well: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience/all/1

  22. Thanks for posting. Appreciate it. You’re obviously a smart guy, after reading your blog for several years. And it is comforting to see that you came to the same conclusion as me.

  23. Robert, in all fairness, matt wrote an article concerning vaccines with links to other authority sites. It’s a pretty simple query, not a one or two word, but not the long tail either.
    He discussed whether vaccines are safe or not, and provided links to further augment the discussion. I’m pretty happy with him showing up on the second page for that query. I could probably get there too for “are vaccines safe” if I wrote great content and linked to relevant pages on other domains.

  24. Mike

    What concerns me is that nobody (and i mean – NOBODY) can explain the etiology of autism. It can only be diagnosed by behavior, not by blood tests, MRI, x-ray or even autopsy.

    How can someone say that x, y or z doesn’t cause autism when no one even knows what part of the brain is affected, and how it is affected? Maybe it’s trans-generational DNA damage? Maybe it’s a secondary effect, where the vaccine breaks down the blood-brain barrier and allows something else to damage the brain?

    As a therapist, I’ve worked with at least 50 children with autism over the past 20 years. It is a devastating disease, both for the child and the family. Very devastating. The divorce rate for parents of autism is over 80% as it turns their lives upside down.

    I know that you guys are skeptical, but at least 20 of the families I worked with (even in the early 90′s before the Internet) described their child as having an extreme loss of function (speech, social skills and awareness) within 2-4 weeks of their MMR vaccinations. These reports were made by intelligent, professional type parents, not conspiracy theorists.

    So I don’t think we can rule out vaccines until we discover what autism really is (the structural etiology, not the symptoms).

    You could say the same about alzheimers.

  25. Just wanted to clarify what I meant by “etiology” (I probably should have used the term “pathophysiology” instead):

    - Stroke is defined as brain tissue that dies due to lack of oxygen
    - Parkinson’s is a lack of dopamine in the brain stem
    - Brain trauma to the frontal lobe causes judgement problems, trauma to the rear (occipital) lobe of the brain causes loss of visual perceptual ability.

    However no one knows what the pathophysiology of autism is. It’s a real disease/injury, but 100% unexplained in physical terms by even the most brilliant of doctors and scientists.

  26. Ken Aston

    Getting independent information about certain topics is becoming more and more difficult. This is one example of it.

  27. As an addition to your article (which I wholeheartedly agree with), it is also always good to remember how dangerous the diseases these vaccinations protect against can be if you catch them. There is a reason these vaccines exist (and also a scary thought that cases of for example measles, at least in the UK, went up dramatically since the MMR scare).

  28. Jean-Philippe Martin

    thanks for this. This is difficult to address this issue as a parent. On the one side vaccinating your child is best for its health, on the other side it’s a risk for it’s health. Whatever you do, you have the burden to make the right decision. I chose not to vaccinate mines but I respect the choice of people who do otherwise. My reasons was to not play Russian roulette with the immune system of my children.

  29. George Anderson

    Generaly it is best for the herd if everyone is vaccinated.
    But things do go wrong some governments (fortunately for me, not mine, unfortunately for you though) remove liberties from children who are not vaccinated – education for example.
    There is insufficient policing of vaccines and more misinformation that there is accurate unbiased information.
    It would have been just as easy to take an opposing view and reach the opposite opinion.
    It would be best for the general public to take advice from qualified individuals rather than media pundits and google PR people.

    http://bit.ly/hcHIny

  30. I had similar concerns to you Matt when vaccinating our own daughter. Every pediatrician/ doctor I asked had gotten their own child vaccinated. That gave me the confidence to go ahead. Great post.

  31. Daddio and Mike – it’s important to differentiate between things seeming to be correlated (ie. vaccination and MMR vaccine) and actually being related. The onset of autism just happens to be around the same time, and whilst being very distressing for those involved no study has found a link. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2410371.stm

    There is a Danish study which looked at over 500 000 children and compared the rates of autism been those given and not given the MMR vaccine, that found rates of Autism to be no higher in the groups that received the vaccine.

    As another person has commented, Bad Science has an excellent writeup on the whole MMR thing: http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Science-Quacks-Pharma-Flacks/dp/0865479186/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294586704&sr=8-1

    Also have a read of the Bad Science Blog: http://www.badscience.net/category/mmr/

  32. T.J. Crowder

    When mentioning Wakefield, there are three things that should always be highlighted: 1) Every other study has concluded that the MMR is safe. 2) Wakefield was struck off the medical register for his conduct with regard to the paper in question, for multiple reasons including the serious professional misconduct Matt mentioned. 3) The number of children contracting and, in some tragic cases, dying from measles went up here in the UK after Wakefield and co. launched their patently false MMR scare and substantial numbers of perfectly good-hearted, well-meaning people failed to vaccinate their children because they didn’t understand the research was rubbish and didn’t understand the risks of non-vaccination.

  33. John andrews

    If you ignore the real problem (that we can’t trust or medical system to be honest with us, due to commercial conflict of interests) then over time we are forced into a situation where fear drives policy. If everyone isn’t vaccinated, we risk getting sick. Sadly, that means the commercial enterprise wins even with simple delay.

    I wish more smart people would address the problem, instead of ignoring it as “not their problem” until they recognize a risk to their own health.

    That discharged doctor took hundreds of thousands of $, but billions are given go doctors every year by pharmaceutical companies. We count afford to take the easy way out and just point fingers and preach. The same medical establishment that created the problem thieves when we do that. The real problem doesn’t get any better, but time passes.

    When you experience your own child suffer serious neurological challenge within 10 days of vaccination, you have a responsibility to acknowledge the risk. Research papers from a known to be corrupt system should not override common sense. Then, given almost zero support by that same medical system, such a concerned doubter becomes a risk to society. And you support this method of dealing with real concerns? Eventually not only is it acceptable to ostracized dissenters, but you will even sacrifice them for the “greater good”.

    There is simply too much distrust, caused by too much corruption, to permit writing off the large numbers of experiences and reports, let alone the very real numbers of neurologically impacted children in or society. It’s difficult to see such “vaccination is safe – vaccinated your kids” posts as anything more than selfish.

    I expected wiser user of your blog than this.

  34. This is a toughie. I have two kids. They are past the vaccination stage now (9 and 12) but I can tell you first hand, injecting them with mild versions of horrible diseases (M M R) is a little nerve wracking when they are like 2 years old.

    Throw into the mix some controversy and the becomes a LOT nerve wracking.

    Personally, I wish there was a better way. And I don’t get why they do them all at once.

  35. Jon

    We each have to weigh the risks of vaccinating against the risks of not vaccinating. As parents of a 7 month old girl, we’ve chosen to vaccinate. I wonder how the non-vaccination people would feel about the issue if their children weren’t surrounded by a bunch of vaccinated, immune children who aren’t able to spread dangerous diseases to their own kids.

    John andrews – You think Matt is selfish to suggest that others vaccinate their kids? I think it’s selfish not to vaccinate your kids. I’m sure there is a level of risk involved in vaccination. By not vaccinating, you’re allowing everyone else to take the risk of the vaccination while you still reap 90% of the benefits. THAT sounds selfish to me.

    I’ve yet to read a compelling argument that the world would be a better place if smallpox, polio, measles and mumps were all running rampant. Because of vaccines, these diseases are all but gone from the planet.

  36. Good points by John Andrews. There are few who are acknowledging the conflict of interest the pharmaceutical industry has in getting their products to market, where any casualties are simply a “cost of doing business.”

    How many drugs have we seen pulled off the market due to inadequate testing that apparently didn’t reveal dangerous side effects? In some cases, the data was faked. Can happen on both sides.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/health/research/11pain.html

    Here’s a really good story about the H1N1 vaccine from the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, BC. Really interesting stuff on the third page talking about thimerosal.

    http://www.straight.com/article-270843/vancouver/whats-your-vaccine

    I wasn’t ever too worried about vaccines in the past and I understand the science behind them, but the hype and outright BS surrounding H1N1 in 2009 caused me a lot of concern.

    Nobody’s knocking the benefits of vaccines overall, but there are legitimate concerns about their safety these days.

  37. I don’t believe there is a 1:1 correlation between vaccines and autism, but I do wonder if some children might be more susceptible than others due to pysiological differences.

    As a therapist, I’ve worked with 12-15 US soldiers with Guilian-Barre syndrome, which was caused by their vaccinations BEFORE being deployed. So it is true that vaccinations can indeed hurt some people and not others…

  38. John, yes it is true that the Medical System is far from blemish free, but in the MMR case there have been a huge number of studies and none of them has found any sign of a link between MMR and Autism. We cannot confuse a handful of anecdotes with something serious especially when some big studies have not found any link.

  39. The bigger problem isn’t whether or not vaccine A causes disease B, or that it could cause disease B, or even that there’s no proof that it does cause disease B. It’s that there is absolutely no way whatsoever for an ordinary human being to tell what’s fact and what’s fiction, given the overall level of secrecy doctors and pharmaceutical companies operate under, and the business advantage over a weakened consumer that it gives them.

    I’ve repeatedly been told that the treatments and activities I prescribe for myself to cure various maladies are better than any treatments and activities a doctor could prescribe…by doctors themselves. And I’m not by any means a medical scientist, nor do I have any interest in it. I just look at the situation, figure out what could work, if need be ask a doctor, usually get confirmation, and then go do what I was going to do anyway.

    If doctors (who largely amount to dart throwers nowadays) telling me I can take care of myself better than they can, then why should I trust them to give me a pill or a vaccine or a whatever to treat me or anyone I know? The only doctors left worth going to are the ones like my old chiropractor, who actually try to help you help yourself before prescribing any treatments.

    The medical profession needs a drastic overhaul from the ground up. Get rid of all the administrators. Force the pharmaceutical companies to be more open and accountable when drugs go wrong (not to mention not charging $7.00 or more per pill in some cases…and I live in a so-called medical paradise). Then we can discuss what works and what doesn’t. None of the misinformation, conspiracy theories, lawyer interference or anything else can be solved until everything is right out in the open and any potential advantage the medical profession can gain by keeping the public at less than 100% is eliminated.

  40. Harith

    Matt

    It seems several people have strong feeling to the subject of this post. Maybe time for a relaxing OZ & Emmy kitten post :-)

  41. Dr Wakefield’s report caused a lot of controversy here in England a few years ago. There was a big drop in takup of the MMR vaccine, with many people paying for separate single vaccines or not getting their children vaccinated at all. This led to an increase in these diseases in the non vaccinated children. Things are gradually getting back to normal now with takeup rates of MMR increasing again since he was discredited.

  42. you might be interested that the BMJ have published a series of articles effectively saying that wakefield is a fraud.

    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/01/mmr-scandal-first-flawed-now-f.html

  43. Hi Matt, I also believe that all children should be vaccinated against preventable diseases.

    Unfortunately the situation in the rest of the world is a bit different. Research shows that an estimated 745 000 children die every year of measles which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is preventable by a safe, effective and relatively cheap vaccine. That’s about 2000 children every day!

    Perhaps we should focus our attention to this?

  44. Are vaccines safe?

    Fact #1: There have not been large scale vaccine safety studies.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6K6ayrThjM

    Fact #2: In 2009, between 1.6 to 3.2 million were injured by #vaccines
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s49xpHl3hWI

    I personally know people that have been injured by vaccines: one person died, one almost died, one is mentally impaired and in a wheelchair, many others ended up with autism. One injured military mom actually pursued their case in the “vaccine court” and won.

    Do vaccines always cause injury? No.
    Does smoking always cause cancer? No.

    There are risks with everything we do. It is best to make informed decisions and not fear based decisions. (some people fear vaccines, while other people fear diseases)

  45. David

    Vaccine and autism; the thing is, coincidences are sometimes just that – coincidental. One does not follow from the other. You just need to apply a little logic.

    It’s always cloudy when it rains.
    Today it is cloudy.
    Therefore, it is raining.

    Substitute ‘vaccine’ and ‘autism’ for ‘cloud’ and ‘rain’. One does not predicate the other.

    That’s on the downside. On the upside, measles and chicken-pox /kill/ thousands of unvaccinated children every year around the world. So even if there was a chance that having the vaccine increased your chance of autism (which it does not) you’d still be better vaccinating than not.

    (Aside) How did we develop into a society that can’t/won’t engage in rational decision making, and can’t/won’t assess and manage risk.

  46. “Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare,” In short, link between autism and vaccines is a fraud. – You can read the rest here: http://abcn.ws/h23VuB

  47. Timing is everything!

    Study in the press today claims that birth spacing, meaning how soon you have children together, may contribute to autism:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110110/ap_on_he_me/med_autism_birth_spacing

  48. I’m really glad to see you put this out there.

    As a parent of a 6 year old, I had to do a lot of this research, much of it before the retraction. It’s confusing and scary. Add on to that, the fact that I was a first-time parent and you are just consumed with doing as much as you can to safeguard your child.

    So, before what would have been a no-brainer – get the vaccine – turns into a full on investigation with your child’s potential well-being hanging in the balance.

    I went ahead with vaccines, though I made sure that they weren’t mixed with Thimerosal. It’s the best I could do at the time with the facts that were out there.

    Today, there is so much more information and research and I came to realize that the research that created the furor was based on a sample size of 12. 12! I hope parents can feel better about making this decision now, with all of the evidence out in the open. There’s enough drama in raising a child, we don’t need one more.

  49. Matt, thank you for this.

    I’ve read several reports on vaccines as well (I have a young child) and completely agree.

    My main fear is that uninformed parents will not vaccinate their children, thus putting my child and others in more danger.

    Think about it. Small pox, chicken pox, measles, mumps, the whole lot have decreased in the past decades due to vaccines.

    If people skip these vaccinations they’re not only putting their children at risk for diseases we generally do not have to worry about being fatal in this country, as well as all the other children and adults that child is around (daycare, school, after care, family gatherings, etc).

    I’m always glad to see an authority figure researching and writing about topics that more people need to be aware of. So thank you Matt.

    K

  50. john andrews

    “Chris Fleming January 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm John, yes it is true that the Medical System is far from blemish free, but in the MMR case there have been a huge number of studies and none of them has found any sign of a link between MMR and Autism. We cannot confuse a handful of anecdotes with something serious especially when some big studies have not found any link”

    Yes, Chris we can, and I think we should. Your comment is a perfect example. Every one of those “handful of anecdotes” was a living, human child suffering. They are not statistics. They are not “outliers” because, with human subjects, every single life matters. Every one.

    It’s easy to point to “autism” to discount vaccine complications due to negative findings. That’s exactly what the commercial establishment wants, and that is the position Matt supported here by posting. Rather than that too-easy question, why not look at safety overall? Not just little-understood autism. Look at all neurological disorders. Look at seizures and allergies. Look at mental development. Look at physiologic indicators of neurologic stress following vaccination.

    Now.. should we halt all vaccines because of a handful of unknown complications? Should we force everyone to take the vaccines? If you choose to force vaccines, you take responsibility for those lives (however few). If it turns out we didn’t do adequate research to know the potential problems, or we (gasp) took shortcuts to save or make profits, will there be consequences? Should there? Were those profits “worth it”? What is an innocent human life worth? Yes, this stuff is hard. That’s why we need a trustworthy, respectable system.

    Let’s focus on those better questions, and do the hard work that is required to address the needs of the people (every one).

    I find it kind of silly to hear individuals express such definitive opinions about public health as happens here in the comments. Armchair quarterbacking is entertainment. few are qualified to debate facts or implications of autism or other consequences of vaccination. But all are qualified to demand better from our seemingly misguided and corrupt medical system.

    For every citizen who wants to stand up and tell us all how to make life-risk decisions for our children, I would like to point them in the direction of helping our society foster and maintain a trustworthy, reliable and respectable medical system. Fix that, which you can do with your efforts, and you fix the harder problem (which you can’t solve with your preaching, theorizing, and supposing).

  51. I think the issue here is not whether or not it is better or worse to get children vaccinated. I think that statistically, it just is. The issue is whether or not a parent should be forced to have their children vaccinated. I think that there is sufficient doubt as to the dangers of multiple vaccinations over such a short period of time at a young age that we should allow parents to make their own choice. I don’t think it’s my place to tell someone else what they should or should not do for their child. I had three vaccinations as a kid, polio, TB and rocky mountain spotted fever – I needed those. For immunity for the other stuff, I just had the disease and I’m just fine. Lack of vaccinations doesn’t necessarily hurt you either and a parent should be allowed to make their own choice.

  52. The difficulty for parents is the time that the signs of autism begin to be noticeable due to children’s developmental stages is also the same time that the MMR vaccine is given. There is more and more research now being conducted on identifying earlier signs of autism by using the home videos taken by the parents and there do seem to be signs that behavioural characteristics are noticeable before the ages of 2 and before the child received the MMR vaccine.

    Reading articles/books written by parents of children with autism shows a common theme of them feeling like they have “lost” the child they had imagined they were going to have – this is a really fearful situation for parents to be in and it’s very understandable that many fear giving their children these vaccinations when there is doubt about their safety.

    That said, replications of the Wakefield study have not found the same links to autism that were published in his retracted article. The difficulty is also in parents probably waiting for the studies that have not found a link to turn out to be wrong as well…they’re probably worried that if one article is retracted then what are the possibilities of these new studies going the same route?

    I myself am aware of parents who had their first child vaccinated and this child later being diagnosed with autism, these parents then did not vaccinate their second child but this child was also later diagnosed with autism.

    I think the general culture of fearing vaccines is slowly dying away with the various publications now dismissing the links to autism and greater discussion such as posts like this one. But the fears will probably still not diminish for some time given the (incorrectly) perceived damaging consequences a vaccine might have.

    An interesting TED talk by Michael Spector highlights the dangers of denying science and discusses the autism vaccine – it might be worth a watch!

  53. Good one on bringing up the topic Matt!

    I have 4 boys 14, 10, 9 and 7 and went through the same concerns that most parents go through when faced with the needdle approaching.

    But the chances of autism were only marginally minisculey possibly probable – maybe!

    I remember seeing a documentary on TV once where the parents had before and after videos of their child, they said the vaccine had changed their child.

    Its hard to make the call of what really happened but I think more children are severley affected by NOT taking the vaccine.

    A real hard call for parents but the stats show it’s the way to go.

    Cheers from Dublin,
    Paul

  54. This is a huge issue because there are many types of vaccines and there are many cases in the past where governments have used people in the US or in Africa as guinea pigs for testing various drugs, ranging from vaccines to LSD. It is easy to mistrust and be fearful of the use of vaccines when it comes to children. Personally, when it comes to my kids, I study everything that they are injected with before I assume it is safe. I make the effort to call their doctors and inquire about the actual medications/vaccines they are getting for things like measles and rubella. I also research the actual manufacturer/brand. In some cases, vaccines are required, in others they are not. Many schools, for example, require them and you have no choice, unless you home school. Thanks for this article.

  55. Ivan

    You are assuming American Academy of Pediatrics and CNN are your friends, please don’t. Can you imagine AAP saying “yes, vaccines are not that safe as we told you”? They would never ever ever do that, because too many people made a career on it, here is a book you should start with:

    Vaccine Safety Manual for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners: Guide to Immunization Risks and Protection

    it has plenty of studies and statistics published, most of which do not speak for current vaccines, but against them.

  56. @john andrews “I find it kind of silly to hear individuals express such definitive opinions about public health as happens here in the comments.”

    Equally silly are people arguing in favor of a study that had a statistically insignificant sample, subjects already showing signs of developmental issues, and lack of reproducibility.

    Moving right along…

    Regardless, I’ll agree it doesn’t mean that vaccines couldn’t cause any kind of adverse reaction in a patient. However, nobody has been able, with certainty, to link MMR to autism.

    What other studies have suggested however is the onset of autism and diagnosis just happens to coincide with MMR vaccination schedules, which is coincidental more than causal, because autistic children that haven’t been vaccinated are diagnosed in the same time-frame.

    Note that studies also suggest that siblings of autistic children are at higher risk as well which starts to point to something either genetic or environmentally localized.

    It’s easy to point to the “corrupt medical system” as a scapegoat but these medical workers also have children. How likely do you think the entire worldwide medical community would be willing to put their own children at risk if there was any serious concern about the relationship of autism and MMR?

    Even if MMR were a contributing factor, there has to be something else that all of these autistic children would have in common that would eventually become obvious. So far the best minds in the business, other than one debunked doctor, can’t find any common thread, other than the symptoms and time-frame of onset, that links it all together. Having children of their own at risk, I’m sure they’re more than just a little motivated to figure this out one way or the other.

  57. Happy to see you have this here Matt. The family that lives across the street from us (4 children) were basically out of commission for 6 weeks this year as whooping cough spread throughout their household to all but 2 of its members – the two that did not get it were the mother (vaccinated as a child) and their firstborn (the only child in the household to have been vaccinated). The father caught a mild case and was ill with it for about 2-3 weeks. The resurgence of whooping cough here, and polio elsewhere in the world should have people more seriously considering the risks they put themselves & their children in by ignoring the data. And the data supports vaccination for disease prevention – and eradication with widespread vaccination adoption.

    I think a key problem is that we have a generation of people virtually untouched by the diseases that used to be common (polio especially) so there is no point of reference here in the states for how serious and debilitating those diseases actually are – and how easily spread throughout the population. It’s sad to think that these things could come back and once again devastate a large part of the population – because people chose to ignore the data, and feel safe in doing so. By and large, they are safe, because in predominant numbers, the rest of do vaccinate, making them less likely to come into contact with it. But every disease is just a plane ride away so they are taking a very high, very unnecessary risk.

  58. Hi Matt, You might also consider another issue. Whether or not there is any link with autism, do you think the immune system might develop disproportionately towards fighting a few uncommon diseases, in the process losing some of its ability to fight common conditions not present in the vaccine? In a sense, it could be argued that being vaccinated is like learning Latin or some other rare language, if there is a finite amount of resource like time and/or immunological response; there are only 24 hours in a day.

  59. James

    There is a wider issue than risk to ones own by choosing not to vaccinate; by doing so it allows the disease to become endemic within the population (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/official-warning-measles-endemic-in-britain-851584.html). If you choose to not vaccinate your child against measles, mumps or rubella you not only increase the chance of your child getting these very nasty disease, you increase the chance of everyone getting these diseases. There may or may not be problems with the vaccines; there are certainly problems if you catch one of those illnesses. That said, there was an interesting programme on the bbc in the UK – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00x4013 – about the problems caused by vaccination in Africa. It is worth noting though that these problems didn’t show up in the West as the health care there was sufficiently good that they were not an issue.

  60. I am always amazed at the number of people that are willing to make critical decisions, like not vaccinating their children, based on musings in the ‘Celebrity Press’.

    When the report was first published it was criticized by almost every other medical journal. The methods used and the sample size were obvious problems. Yet the report kept being cited.

    I don’t know if it is the education system or the shear volume of information we are bombarded with everyday. But, somewhere people seem to have lost their ability for critical reasoning. There seems to be a belief that big business or big government is hiding something from us and the lone voice of descent is the correct one.

    Some times they are – but more often they are not.

  61. @michelle “I think a key problem is that we have a generation of people virtually untouched by the diseases that used to be common (polio especially) so there is no point of reference here in the states for how serious and debilitating those diseases actually are – and how easily spread throughout the population.”

    Bingo.

    Nail on the head.

    I remember polio and whooping cough, haven’t seen it in decades.

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few.

  62. “The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few” – Unless you are one of the few.

    Vaccines may be good for the masses, but if they damage the lives of some people, we should know about it. People aren’t forced to take anything by the government but vaccines. Not Viagra, not Prilosec, not Prozac. Yet vaccines contain mercury, (not widely advertised), and carry no TV disclaimers.

    Incredibill is right when he says that “The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few”. However, this is the reason there will never be an honest study by the CDC (govt) or the pharmaceutical companies on the side effects of vaccines.

    Collateral damage is just the price you pay for the benefit of the collective. It just stinks for you if you are in the collateral group. I’ve seen enough to know.

  63. There are more studies besides the autism one.

    There are some interesting results, stats and studies showing that some vaccines are not necessary anymore and are still being applied.

    Same way some people do not even take medicine. Same reason why I know nurses and doctors themselves do not take them.

    You are free to choose whether you want to take them or not. But you are not “free” to get vaccines.

    Just do your research and believe whatever you feel like. Nowadays you have to judge for yourself. Can not trust anybody, specially mainstream media.

  64. Hi Matt!

    What I feel is missing in this conversation is a look at what actually happens in the process of getting a vaccine shot. With the serum fluid the disease agent gets injected into your system in order to get your body to start producing antibodies. In essence, you get infected with the disease you actually trying to avoid.

    Even though the dosis of the disease agent is minimal,
    it nonetheless is strenous for your system. If you now look at the system of a child which is still in development and far less poised to withstand such a challenge…. I find it very understandable that parents worry about putting their kids into this situation. No vaccination is a guarantee deal. Chances are that the deliberate infection gets a kid very sick.

    Kind regards!
    :-)

  65. Adriel

    Robert, take a long hard look at what’s on page 1. This single page has much better scientific papers cited than the 2 (very popular) crock sites that show up.

    In the end, we use lazy shortcuts to explain our world. Autism develops in a child at around the same time as vaccinations, and BOOM; there’s your cause. Maybe we should have Grade 6 students study and memorize http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions to weed out the worst offenders.

  66. @incredibill “It’s easy to point to the “corrupt medical system” as a scapegoat but these medical workers also have children. How likely do you think the entire worldwide medical community would be willing to put their own children at risk if there was any serious concern about the relationship of autism and MMR?”

    Not so fast… I worked in healthcare and worked with pharma execs and managers… those images of doctors preferring to smoke Camel over Marlboro were very real. Even today, critical care nurses are (in my experience) among the heaviest smokers and least healthy individuals I know. Of course there’s good reasons… but saying that medical people have kids and are therefore careful is bunk.

    Pharma mid-level managers and staffers (in my experience) take far more prescription remedies than “regular people”. Everything from allergies to pain meds. Is it because they are so careful, and aware of safety, and knowledgable? Or maybe it’s part of the culture..the culture of being inside that system, so close to the messaging, and with easy access, often at a discount.

    On the contrary.. insiders are among the least likely to have an unbiased, safe, etc opinion (in my experience).

    I want to focus on trust, not personal experience. We need a system we can trust, so we can, well, trust it.

  67. Vaccine’s are safe.. i am biotechnician.. I know the number of tests that we do before it really comes to the market… It takes a single drug about 5 years and more to be tested under clincial trial.. and its pretty safe, unless the pharamacy does not pay a hefty bribe to FDA… In India, back here.. the vaccine’s are usually given orally which are more effective then the ones in the western world.. May be the westerners need to rethink the whole fact of how they want to be protected.. Do u want a knight always at ur doorstep or Do u mind to battle a small war with weak infection agents…

  68. I think I have pertussis too. I had it for three weeks before I went to a doctor to get antibiotics.

  69. I agree with you, Matt. When my first child was born, I did a great deal of research into vaccines and safety, especially in relation to the MMR (this was before Andrew Wakefield’s research had been discredited) and came down in favour of vaccination as much to protect other children aswell as our own – although we chose acellular vaccinations rather than cellular vaccinations where possible.

    I also believe that many people who chose not to vaccinate don’t really understand that the potential side effects from not being vaccinated can be so very much more serious (and in some cases can be death) than any perceived side effects from being vaccinated. And that when they choose not vaccinate they risk all those children who can’t be vaccinated, or who are at risk medically, or whose vaccination didn’t take. Herd immunity is the only way that these terrible diseases will be kept in check.

    Since then one of my children has been diagnosed with a chronic disease and is heavily immunosuppressed. He is at risk everyday from children who have not been vaccinated, there are several in his class including the child he sits next to. If he catches measles, he will face a 30% mortality rate and an 80% severe disability rate and I will be in the hospital crying and praying. I made the decision to vaccinate my own children and now I am relying on other parents to do the same to protect us all.

  70. So it’s the new vaccines and with the panic that drugcompanies try and push them out that parents should be careful with. And grown-ups as well. The panic probably killed more people than the flu ever did.

  71. I have always been worried about vaccines and vaccine safety, especially with my 2 year old at home, and a baby on the way. I remember just reading about swineflu building a natural resistance to all forms of flu though? That sounded great, get the swineflu and never get the flu again.

  72. suddenlysara

    Wow Matt, I am not alone. I got that whooping cough too down here here by Laguna Beach. I’ve been doing research about all this stuff happening around the world because of the polar shift. I can hardly sleep at night because of that damn cough that keeps comming and going.

  73. PJ

    Many studies have been conducted on large samples to determine if a link exists between vaccination – specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and thimerosal-containing vaccines – and increases in the prevalence of autism. These studies have not supported a link between either the MMR vaccine or thimerosal and the increased prevalence of autism.

    The present state of the science indicates that the proven benefits of vaccinating a child to protect them against serious diseases outweigh any hypothesized risk that vaccinations might cause. It remains possible that specific genetic or medical factors present in a small minority of the general population might lead to an adverse vaccine response.

  74. Peter

    First, just to be clear, I think this whole MMR vaccine/autism thing is ridiculous hype, based on bad science.

    And several people have posted comments recommending the book, Bad Science, which goes into some depth about this subject. It’s interesting to note, however, that Bad Science slams both the MMR vaccine bad science, along with bad science from the “alternative” medicine in general and the medical community’s own bad science. Ben Goldacre provides various examples of specific techniques used by big pharma to scam us, and specific examples of when they have done so.

    Which brings me to the quote you have in your post, Matt:

    One study published in 2010 was conducted in response to concerns about the total number of vaccines children receive. In this study (the last one listed in this document), researchers found infants who followed the recommended vaccine schedule performed better on 42 different neuropsychological outcomes years later than children who delayed or skipped vaccinations. This should reassure parents that vaccinating their children on schedule is safe and is the best way to protect them from disease.

    Should it? This sounds like bad science, too. There are two reasons that kids don’t get vaccinated:
    1: Parental opposition to vaccines
    2: Poverty

    It’s quite likely that the effect described in this quote is due to #2, not #1. For various reasons, poor kids perform worse “neuropsychological outcomes”, and poor kids are less likely to be vaccinated.

  75. Brian R

    I forgot to mention the biggest reason for the pharmaceutical companies to cover up the link between vaccines and autism, etc.: LAWSUITS. They stand to lose millions if studies show a link. On http://www.14studies.org/studies.html you can see all the conflicts of interest where people doing the vaccine studies are vaccine patent holders and vaccine manufacturers have paid experts through grants, etc. to do these studies. That’s a very serious conflict of interest and like they say, “the devil is in the details.” Also, in spite of all the studies on the MMR vaccine, why haven’t they studied the children who got sick to see why they got sick? Seems they might be afraid of what they will find.

    Dr. Mercola has a bunch of information on his site about vaccines as well and it doesn’t look good. He claims Merck introduced the vaccines Gardasil, Zostavax, and Rotateq to make up for lost profits on Vioxx and that the FDA has issued warnings about the risk of intussusception (requiring surgery) with Rotateq. There is tonnes more info but, just based on that, I don’t think one can conclude that “parents should make sure their children get vaccinations” as if all vaccines are all the same and all safe. That’s an over-generalization.

    There was a hepatitis B vaccine in the 90s that was halted in France after concerns rose about it’s side effects and 5 people died from receiving this vaccine and many more were injured and French authorities opened an investigation for manslaughter against one of the employees of one of the pharma companies (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL0173467120080201).

    In 1976 the government started a big advertising campaign to get people to take the swine flu vaccine and more people died from the vaccine than from the swine flu and 4000 people were injured, mostly neurologically (e.g. Guillain–Barré syndrome), from the vaccine shot. The head of the CDC who developed the ads joined the private industry after this campaign. See this 16 min video from 60 minutes about this: http://www.medicanalife.com/watch_video.php?v=5d201ea106cf09e Again, more evidence that we can’t just make blanket statements that vaccines are safe and we can’t always trust government organizations to tell us things that cause large corporations to lose a lot of money.

  76. David

    There are a lot of myths out there about the “harmfulness” of vaccines, or that they don’t work at all. Over a year ago I compiled a good portion of these silly myths into a short video series on YouTube.

    The first video has poor audio quality, but the rest should be fine and were well-researched. I hope it clears up some common misconceptions and misinformation being propagated around.

  77. We went with MMR for my daughter in the UK. Simply a balance of Risk/Reward – the risk of catching one of the three far outweighed anything else, so she was vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

    If nobody used these vaccines, the number of deaths and complications from these illnesses could reach pandemic levels, just like they used to before vaccines became available.

    However now living in France, they are not all given in the same injection…. so it just got easier for my youngest. :)

  78. Ivan

    OK, for all those people who think that MMR vaccine link to autism is supported by only one study of 12 kids, have a look at this:

    http://www.jpands.org/vol9no3/stott.pdf

  79. Thank you for your opinion on whether or not children are better off being vaccinated, and whether or not vaccines may or may not be responsible for, or contributing to, autism. As a mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have to say that it upsets me when people say “Your child is better off getting vaccinated”. What about those of us who do have children who have Autism/Asperger’s/PDD-NOS and can trace it back to having started shortly after a vaccine? I now have a child that will have problems for life. If I had allowed him to have the instead of the vaccines, whose to say what would have happened? I lived through many of those illnesses. Why do we have to sign/read information about so-called rare side effects of these vaccines? Because there *are* side effects, and mark my words, many of those side effects have not been discovered/revealed. The cold hard fact is that my son will have Autism/Asperger’s for life, and some day he will be a draw on the system because he sure won’t be able to contribute to the system. This goes for the rapidly exploding number of Autism/Asperger’s/PDD-NOS “afflicted” children. The government can’t afford that. And what about the government paying settlements on at least two cases regarding this, and then “locking” the cases so that they cannot be used as precedent and often can’t even be reviewed? Those settlements were for millions of dollars, so it can’t be said that the government settled to save court costs. Those of you who don’t have a child/ren with Autism/Asperger’s/PDD-NOS have to start taking into account the fact that we know our children better than you do, better than the doctors do. And now I’ll climb off my soapbox and go take care of my child with Asperger’s Syndrome, with no help from the government whatsoever. I have not proofed this so there may be words missing/misspelled.

  80. I finally got over mine after 4 weeks!

    Google Health says 6 weeks but I’m glad it’s over now. I haven’t coughed all day.

  81. Wow! Now there is a hot topic (you link baiter you). ;-)

    I am a parent of three young children (ages 1, 5, and 8). I am also a guy who generally tries to know it all. Of course, thanks to Google, I am getting closer.

    Before I was a parent, I didn’t give this too much thought, but I did have a business partner who is an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist. Once I started having kids, I started asking my old friend some questions. I also started listening.

    What I found is that, although this is highly contested, vaccinations really have made a big difference in why people used to live to 35 and now they live to 115.

    Some people will hate me for this, but then again, some people see black helicopters hovering over their house and think that the moon landing was a hoax and the holocaust was staged. In any case, what I found is that regardless of all the well-formed and well-intentioned parents throwing up red flags about autism, vaccinations are a lot better than having them lying sick in a hospital for the many diseases of yesteryear.

    We don’t know it all, and certainly I don’t know it all. What I do know is that I have a healthy family. That has been worth the risk of our “creepy”, “scary”, and “evil” medical practitioners purportedly trying to poison us all with their wicked medicine. ;-)

  82. ezra abrams

    Are you really qualified to look through the different studies, and figure out which ones are well done and which are not ?
    As a PhD biomedical research, I understand that in programming, the skill or output of programmers varies a lot – some super hackers are 10X the ordinary hacker, and I’m sure there are programmers whose code is so bad it is a negative.
    I don’t know anything about code, but I do know that the avg quality of scientific research is amazingly low, and even worse when it comes to human studies, which are inherently very very difficult.

    There was a time when the entire biomedical research establisment in this country pooh poohed the idea that ulcers came from a bacterium, an idea eventually validated and nobel prized.

    As for the epidemic of autism – if you know anything about time series statistics in human health, you know that they give new meaning to the old phrase, lies, dam’nd lies and statistics.

  83. Jason

    I think a better title for this post would be “Are Vaccines Worth the Risk?” because there is always the risk of an adverse reaction. If you research the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at http://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index (which contains only a fraction of adverse reactions) you can get a sense of what sort of reactions occur to various vaccines in both adults and children. Parents can sort the data by age and read the descriptions, some of which include very scary descriptions of real events like “immediate seizure” and “inconsolable crying for 24 hours”, not to mention many trips to the emergency room and quite a number of deaths following vaccinations. We had our children vaccinated for the most important ones, but made them have only one vaccination at a time; why risk introducing more variables when the risks are obvious to begin with?

  84. Interesting post, whilst I agree on childhood vaccinations there are a wealth of other concerns generally with vaccines concerning testing , inclusion of adjuvents , mercury etc but then again there’s concerns with everything from hamburger meat to the smog we breathe driving into the city so you just have to measure your risk and take a chance.

  85. Definite link between Autism and TV. Exposure to TV is a factor in nearly every Autism case. Well, at least the logic works the same, right?

  86. Brian R

    Hi Matt,

    I take it from the fact that you haven’t approved my comments from a week ago and you’ve approved 3 others since then that you aren’t going to approve it and have decided instead to censor it. I’m not sure why you would do that when it’s obvious that I spent a lot of time to make my posts thoughtful, scientific and logical and I care about parents finding out the right information. I myself am going to be a parent in a couple of months so this is a topic that affects me a lot and I care about finding out the truth. Maybe you feel like you’ve opened a can of worms that you have now decided that you don’t want to deal with. Well, I think it’s too late for that because when you make a post about something as controversial as vaccines and your post ends up #2 for “are vaccines safe” you have a responsibility to be as unbiased as you can otherwise you might be furthering the agenda of one side even if you think you know what’s right. In my opinion, that’s called collusion.

    Don’t you think it’s interesting that that “good overview of relevant medical studies” that you linked to says nothing about the study on macaques from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (which was released prior) where the vaccine schedule “significantly” affected the volume and binding capacity of a maturing amygdala? And that “the macaque infant is a relevant animal model in which to investigate specific environmental
    exposures … during [human] neurodevelopment?” There are also a lot of references to autism in that article. I also think it’s interesting that they don’t mention anything about all the conflicts of interests mentioned here http://www.14studies.org/studies.html. They refer to this study: “Neurologic Disorders after Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination” by “Dr. Makela” without mentioning that “Dr Makela was partially supported by a grant from Merck & Co. [the manufacturer of the MMR vaccine].” That’s a pretty serious conflict of interest in my opinion and shows that they either haven’t dug very deep or they’re colluding with those who profit from vaccines.

    My apologies if you just haven’t gotten around to publishing these comments but you’ve approved others since then and like I said, it’s been a week since my first comment. I’m not one to just roll over on this. Parents need to know the truth. Maybe I will have to use sidewiki or twitter or other blogs but I’m not just going to roll over and allow you to rank so highly and then censor comments that contradict your conclusions.

    Sincerely,
    Brian.

  87. live4life

    Its a decision for the mother,

    Drug Companies survive off vaccines and its emotional blackmail not to take them. However we have inherited defense from many natural virus.

  88. I did some research on vaccinations a while ago for a trip to China. It’s amazing how much conflicting information is out there. Similar to the autism report, things that we believe to be true today may turn out to be completely wrong in 10 years. It just goes to show how little we really do know, or at least how drastically things change.

  89. I personally got the flu a bit over a month later after I got flu vaccine and I do have a couple of friends and relatives who have autistic children who blame it on vaccines they took..so I must say vaccines aren’t safe its a risk we take…

  90. Sean

    Vaccines are an interesting topic. While I’m behind the science of them and would definitely have my children vaccinated, I’m more intrigued by the sociology of the debate.

    We don’t have a lot of good answers for what causes Autism. Sure there are theories, but nothing definitive. When we don’t know an answer to something, some people will latch on to something and never give in. For them they need an answer to solve a problem that doesn’t have an answer yet. Without opening a huge can of worms, you can sort of compare it to religion.

  91. Sometimes I wonder the same thing. Scientifically there is no evidence to prove against them and their remedying or prevention of viruses and diseases, however they may cause other conditions that we don’t even know about yet.

  92. Yeah, glad that study got debunked. We agonized over this and decided to get all the vaccines but followed a slightly less aggressive schedule (not tripling and quadrupling vaccines in a single visit).

    I do ask for preservative free flu vaccines though (thimerosal free). No need to have traces of mercury in a vaccine.

  93. Marziah Karch

    My son has autism, so I’ve researched the topic quite a bit. If I had it all to do over again, I’d still make sure my children were fully vaccinated.

  94. We don’t have a lot of good answers for what causes Autism. Sure there are theories, but nothing definitive. When we don’t know an answer to something, some people will latch on to something and never give in. For them they need an answer to solve a problem that doesn’t have an answer yet. Without opening a huge can of worms, you can sort of compare it to religion.

  95. This is a long way from rel=canonical ……….but I take both issues very seriously.
    This is the first part of Robert Kennedy’s head and shoulders above the parapet speech, I strongly recommend it. If you really want to study the science on Vaccines, you probably need to dig quite deep into
    Pubmed.

    There are three parts to the speech, so obviously you need to follow them through.

    Good luck. As a long-time sufferer of dental related illnesses, (i.e. chronic illness caused by mercury fillings and crowns), I can tell you, this is a very serious matter. In fact, more serious than SEO, believe it or not.

  96. Well, as a (non practicing) Chiropractor, my two bits is this. Unlike homes, pharmaceuticals are not and can not currently be “customized.” Its one size fits all. Everyone gets the same medication. Yet, we are all biochemically unique. Some of us can eat a peanut and die, some of us will have a reaction to dander, some of us will have a reaction to vaccines. As the etiology of autism remains elusive, the question becomes, is it worth it to have my child vaccinated? I would say if your first child had a horrible reaction, I would be very guarded with my second as they are genetically close. Most will NOT have a reaction, most will NOT become autistic, but those small statistical variations, even if 1/10 of 1/10 of 1% are still people with families that will be left “holding the bag.” .01% in a population of a million people is still 100 people. Whether it be Guillain Barre Syndrom, autism, a horrible anaphylactic response or what have you. As pharmaceuticals are not designed for the specific individual and until they are, we will continue to always see individuals harmed by vaccines, OTC drugs, prescription drugs, etc. All scientists can do is try to minimize the casualties.

  97. Immunizations train the immune system to recognize foreign bodies. So they may not be 100% safe, but it is better than catching the real thing you are trying to protect yourself from☺

  98. Please do not make up your mind about the MMR or any vaccine – and it’s relation to autism – based on popular mythology. I will state that I bent to the pressure but had my children vaccinated with the breakout version of the MMR at a time (about 10 years ago) when it was very hard to get. I just didn’t want any more thimersol in their bodies. However, the study that proported to be definitive about the relationship between early onset autism and the vaccines is very much in doubt as to its truthfullness and should have been properly vetted before being released to the media. Many children have probably died because of not getting the vaccines because of a ‘false’ study – the doctor is really at fault here for bending statistics to prove a theory he believed. That said, I don’t trust much in the medical profession (and my sisters a very prominent autism researcher) so, trust your judgement, but don’t put your children at risk. A very good book on the origin of vaccines, and a fabulous work of historical fiction, City Of Dreams – will fill you in on how vaccines came about, how they worked, and their foundations in american indian medicines from the earliest of times.

  99. We struggled with this question for a long time after we had our first child a few years ago. We decided to take it slow – but still take the vaccines slow. I’m from an area of the world where kids still die from lack of vaccinations – so I’m totally for vaccinations, but I think they’ve gone berserk in the US. I don’t think an infant can handle that much in that short of a time frame. Plus living conditions here are really good – so it’s quite alright to take it slow. All three of my girls are perfectly fine!

  100. You can blame the UK government for some of the fallout over the vaccinations findings and drop in rates.

    Wakefield’s study had been discredited in various ways — but parents still worried. And they wanted to be able to have a choice of vaccinations separately, rather than as an MMR jab all at once.

    Nope, no can do. Not on the NHS. Instead, if you wanted separate injections, you had to pay for them yourself. This caused some parents to decide against vaccination at all.

    The reasoning by the NHS was that one jab was better, because then parents were less likely to forget. The result was some just didn’t bother at all.

    Even though I didn’t buy into the single jab speculation — and I totally believe in vaccination — I went for the separate shots. I could afford it, and I wanted to reduce any chance at all, if I could. But plenty didn’t have that choice at all, and it’s one of the very few times I was very upset with the NHS in my time living in the UK.

  101. Lawrence

    This is all ridiculous. The only reason why people feel autism is linked to vaccination is because of a fake study that was conducted and then proven to be wrong. Personally, I think Wakefield should be tried in a criminal court for spreading misinformation that has affected global health. The comeback of certain diseases, such as measels, is because people are scared to get themselves or their children vaccinated.

    I understand parents are concerned for their children and only want the best for them. I am a father of young twin girls. They have received all of the vaccinations that are appropriate for their age. Why, because there is no data that has been [b]PROVEN[/b] to show that vaccinations causes Autism. In fact the main paper on this was proven to be nothing more than falsified data.

    I can empathize for those who have Autistic children. If my children had Autism and with the complete lack of information as to what causes it, I too may look for a reason any place I can find one. The only significant published article at the time was about vaccinations. At the same time, to continue to react to a story that has not only been proven to be false, but also to be purposely doctored to validate the study, needs to stop. You are not only putting your children in the path of deadly diseases, but allowing these diseases to spread globally like they havent since the vaccinations were created in the first place.

    For me at least, I would rather my children get vaccinations that would protect them from known threats rather than not give them due to a study that has been proven false.

    As for why this blog is showing up so prominently for Vaccines in the SERPs, though, is ridiculous in its own right. I could understand if Matt was talking about SEO in relation to vaccines, but not for this opinion piece. Matt is not a doctor or a health professional, nor is this blog related to that subject, so I find it strange that Google would see Matt’s blog as authoratative for these keywords. To me this shows a fundamental flaw in Search as with the right SEO, sites that don’t belong in the high rankings for a keyword can get there.

  102. David Lingard

    Hi Matt,
    My daughter received the 6 month vaccine which within 4 or 5 hrs. left her with a fever and one side of her face droopy for about two days. The Dr. said it was a reaction to the vaccine.
    Within a few days she was better. At 8 months old, she began to take febrile seizures anytime she got a fever. The specialist was aware of a few isolated cases where the pertussis vaccine (for whooping cough) “may” have caused minor nervous system disorders although there was not scientific studies to show this. He recommended the pertussis be taken out of our daughters vaccinations and wrote a letter stating it is better to err on the side of caution so she could attend school. She outgrew the seizures by the time she was (3 years). She is now (25 years old) and healthy and intelligent however my point is that the vaccinations are not entirely harmless albeit to a very small percentage of children. As we slowly evolve as a species perhaps we should consider the canary in the coal mine possibility.
    David Lingard

  103. Being a parent of two girls, I did some research on vaccines for our kids and came to the conclusion that it’s good practice to vaccinate. If you have any doubts or concerns, you can always talk to your doctor first.

  104. Hmm….interesting that you’d take an approach to this whole topic, Matt…especially as I found out more — much more just today, when our national radio – CBC – ran a full interview with Dr Wakefield. Many many points were covered, including everything mentionned above but also the claims that he filed a patent for a competing MMR vaccine…that he’d actually rec’d $….that he’d yadda yadda yadda…..

    The vast number of claims about him, he answered IMHO, calmly but forcefully and denied them one and all…claims that the Lancet and BMJ folks all need to retract their attacks too as there is published evidence contrary to what they say he “did” and “said” and “wrote”….sigh…whatta mess!

    In any event… I dont’ know enough about this to make an educated guess is my point…it’s a “he said – she said” type of battle…but, I did note that he said he’s most likely NEVER going to get justice as the cost from his lawyers AS A BLOODY retainer was 500,000 LBS.

    Only saving point of all this? I don’t have any kids to worry about…they’re all adults…unlike many above whom I really think need to do what Dr Wakefield claims was his only conclusion in that 1998 paper — to study the cause/effect of this vaccine….

    Isn’t that the major point here? Just like the MS suffers and the narrowing of arteries issues with only anecdotal evidence right now? ie research…do more research?

    Jim

  105. Um….Google lastest just showed me this link on the “fraudulent charges proved false”…

    http://dprogram.net/2011/01/27/dr-wakefield-demands-retraction-from-bmj-after-documents-prove-innocence-from-allegations-of-vaccine-autism-data-fraud-mike-adams/

    Um…I wonder who’s really telling the truth here, eh! Just wish that the previous Drs would come forward with their own backstory on what happend that year BEFORE the Lancet piece was even published….

    Um….dunno…just dunno…

    oh. is it just me who uses Google to find out the ‘latest’ news on this issue…sure seems like there’s MUCH ADO on this story today….

    Jim

  106. one last .pdf….I’ve been reading this topic all day it seems, and I’m no closer to the truth than most…BUT…it appears to me that the charges of fraud, the “de-medical-licencing” of Dr Wakefield etc etc….appear to be without merit at this point…

    http://www.vaccinesafetyfirst.com/pdf/BRIAN%20DEER%20IS%20THE%20LIAR%20.pdf

    Looks like this BMJ has some issues too, eh!

    Jim

  107. Matt….

    When I was about five, I received the usual round of vaccinations. My mother states that after I received them, I quit talking for about a year, and really didn’t play much.

    The exact same thing happened to my son when he was about three. He just quit talking. Today, he is a high functioning teenager with autistic traits.

    I have known other people who have had similar experiences. Maybe this is just anecdotal evidence, but I think the jury is still out on this.

    BTY… The chicken pox vaccine is reported to cause shingles.

    Thanks for the article.

  108. Jim Rudnick,

    Kind of makes you wonder who trumped up the false charges for Wakefield. ;-)

  109. Nice balanced post. As a pediatrician it’s nice to see content appearing that portrays the facts as they are. As this works its way into search it will be one piece of information that may help a confused, frighten young parent make the right decision.

    Thank you.

  110. Tom F

    Three years ago our toddler was vaccinated. Literally the next day, he changed for the worse. He was not the same child and he steadily got worse. He started waking up screaming 5-15 times PER NIGHT. Try functioning at work when you have to deal with this every day for several months in a row.

    The last three years have been a nightmare for my wife and I dealing with the “symptoms.” I won’t use words like autism but he has had major issues with sensory integration among other problems. The cost of dealing with this has ruined us financially. It’s easy to scoff at people who you say ignore the science. Believe me this is real and it is hell.

  111. Hey Matt,

    I just wanted to chime in on this whole search results mess. My preferred engine is Google. In-spite of all the talk about the crappy result that people are getting I’ve had a different experience with your search engine. I have had very little trouble finding what I am looking for in Google and I must admit that Google’s impetus to organized the content on the web has been brilliant. I’ve probably gained a better education through Google than any other information source in the history of my life. It’s a great thing the search engines are doing and undoubtedly Google does it better than anyone else. Since watching the video referenced by this post I’ve done a few searches myself. Most recently “who created house music.” I am from the area where house music started and I want to see who was credited with developing the style of music. At any rate, Google gave me some great info. Bing’s was not as good as Google and Blekko was no where in the ball park. That whole curated content thing is going to be a tough cookie to crack. Neuro-Imitators is a way to improve the algorithm but right now where things stand you can still find good results in the searches. You handled yourself great on the panel and I look forward to continuing to support Google in their endeavors.

  112. As a physician, I believe vaccinations are an important part of a healthy living especially for young children. Why? Young children may have undiagnosed immune disorders and a proper timely vaccines may prevent diseases in these children. Furthermore, young children tend to eat unhealthy meals and may have naturally weak immune systems, hence, vaccines may again play a health role in immune defense. Needless to say, parents be careful when administering *live* vaccinations to children and the elderly. However, as a healthy young adult, you might not need special vaccinations if you eat healthy and exercise regularly.

  113. Kyle

    @kermit johnson, @Jim Rudnick

    But the document ‘proving his innocence’ happens to relate to a study that the Lancet has already retracted.

    Wakefield is a liar and a fraud. If we wasn’t, he could sue Deer and the BMJ for libel and make an absolute fortune.

    The MMR is safe – for God’s sake, get your kids vaccinated – don’t fall for the quackery.

  114. Kyle

    oops, should have read:

    If he wasn’t

    not

    If we wasn’t

  115. This was such a disturbing story. I suspect the whole truth will not come out for years to come, as it’s far too complicated, but whichever way it all turns out, it’s sure to be really ugly. I honestly don’t know what I think is a more depressing idea, the BMJ discrediting a reputable doctor with fake evidence, or the idea of Wakefield fabricating a scare story from which he could benefit financially.

  116. Brian R

    @Bryan Vartabedian: How can this be a balanced post when it doesn’t include all the evidence showing a connection between MMR and vaccines? Wakefield wasn’t the only one and he’s recently released documents showing his innocence as per Jim Rudnick’s comment.

  117. I love “research” papers. While I agree that vaccines are better to get than to avoid, the stats that people use to justify it are misleading at best.

    Myth:
    “Children that receive vaccines are smarter than children who do not.”

    Fact:
    “Children of wealthier and more responsible parents will score higher and (on the average) be smarter than kids who parents are less wealthy or less responsible. These kids also happen to have a better chance of having all their vaccines.”

    The term “unsafe” should never be a blanket statement for vaccines, just as the term “safe” should never be used as a blanket statement for vaccines.

    I encourage each parent to do their own independent research on each and every vaccine that their child is to receive well in advance of them needing it and decide on an individual basis.

    The FDA blocks a lot of safe medicines and inadvertently lets some dangerous ones through. There is no doubt that the same is true for vaccines.

  118. I might try to parallel another example.

    Myth: “Children that go to private school are smarter than those in public school.”

    Fact: “Children of higher means have access to learning tools that promote better learning which leads to a smart child on average. These children because of their means also tend to afford private school.”

  119. Brian R

    That should read “…a connection between MMR and autism…”

  120. Robert Sommers

    I know this is old, but I felt I had to address it.

    “I understand that parents want to do the right thing for their child. My research on this issue leads me to believe that parents should make sure their children get vaccinations.”

    My child is autistic and even my doctor believes vaccines are to blame to the point that he will no longer vaccinated this child, but will continue to vaccinate my other children.

    What does this mean? That some people react very differently to vaccines and that parents should tread carefully when putting their children under the needle. I’m not against vaccines, but I think parents need to get informed and be aware of the warning signs that may suggest that their child needs a “alternative vaccine schedule” or needs to stop vaccines completely. No one thinks their child will get autism – until it’s too late.

    My son’s medical file shows a pattern after each vaccine dose that gets increasingly worse. Are we to blame for not catching this? No… we are parents, not doctors. We need our doctors and scientists to step up to the plate and admit that something may be wrong here. Stop poisoning our kids… please.

  121. My son had most of the vaccines and injections available until he’s 4 (his next shot will be when he’s 7). I wouldn’t seem to bother sending him for shots, but since we lived in a third country then, I thought of letting him have them just to make sure he’d be fine. Fortunately, he’s not been in the hospital since he was a year and half.

  122. Stigma of Developmental Disabilities
    People with developmental disabilities have not been fully accepted by society as they have been perceived as significantly different. In addition difference is negatively valued. The combination of being both, different and devalued results in people being stigmatized. There is proof that some vaccines may cause autism, but on the other hand not getting proper vaccination for children we risk other evil. How do we know exactly to choose what is right or without the risk.

  123. Mike

    Many people are not trying to spread out their immunizations since there isn’t testing being done on having multiple shots at one time. There’s just too much money (billions) in this industry. Our veterinarian told us that we can’t take shots together for our dog. However, the pediatrician told us it didn’t matter how many shots we had at once. We believe them and my son develop autism 2 days after the shots. Our pediatrician still insist that the medical community and the pharmaceutical companies are telling the truth. Who should I believe?

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