Some people question the safety of
immunizations for children. Although minor discomfort
sometimes follows vaccine injections, research does not support claims that
immunizations put a child at any significant risk for harmful side effects. The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully evaluates all vaccines for
safety. Federal law requires health professionals to report any reaction
following an immunization to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). Only two vaccines-the 1976 swine influenza
vaccine and the old
rotavirus vaccine in 1999-have ever been recalled
because of safety concerns.
Side effects from vaccines are
generally minor, if they occur at all. The area where the shot was given may be
sore. And some children may be fussy or get a slight fever. More serious side
effects are very rare. The risk of a serious complication from a disease is far
greater than the risk from the vaccine.
When your young child whimpers at the mention of the word "shot," you probably have mixed feelings. You want your son to be protected by his vaccinations; you just wish that the procedure was pain-free.
"Vaccines protect the health and well-being of children, but children don't understand that," says Deborah Wexler, MD, executive director of the Immunization Action Coalition, a national organization based in St. Paul, Minn. "It can be really hard for them to come in for their shots."
The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine information statements list the side effects of each vaccine. For more information, see the topic Vaccine Information Statements.
The CDC and the FDA continue to study vaccines.
Although the risk of problems from vaccines is already extremely low, these
agencies watch for any reports of rare or unexpected reactions.
Exposure to mercury
In the past, thimerosal, a
mercury-containing compound, was added to vaccines to prevent bacterial growth.
In 1999, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) responded
to concern about this additive's safety and set a goal to have it removed from
all childhood vaccines made in the U.S. Even though studies do not show a link
between thimerosal and
autism or any other condition, all routinely
recommended U.S. childhood vaccines contain either no thimerosal or only trace
The FDA keeps a list of all
vaccines that are given to children and how much, if any, thimerosal the
vaccines contain. To view the list, go to www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). Vaccine safety: Mercury and thimerosal. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/index.html.
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
William Atkinson, MD, MPH - Public Health and Preventive Medicine
February 26, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
February 26, 2010
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