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No Childhood Vaccination-Diabetes Link

Childhood Vaccines Not Associated With Type 1 Diabetes Risk

WebMD Health News

March 31, 2004 -- The largest study to date on the proposed link between childhood vaccination and type 1 diabetes suggests that common vaccines do not increase the risk of the disease.

The Danish study followed nearly 750,000 children, comparing the risk of developing type 1 diabetes between vaccinated and non-vaccinated children, and found no evidence of an association between common vaccines and the disease.

"Overall, there were no more cases of diabetes among the vaccinated children than in the unvaccinated children," says researcher Anders Hviid, of Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The findings appear in the April 1 issue of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.

Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but a combination of genetic and environmental factors is thought to influence the risk of developing the condition.

Diabetes and Vaccination Linked by Timing Alone

Researchers say the fact that type 1 diabetes cases have risen by 3% each year in developed countries over the last 50 years has fueled speculation that various environmental factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and exposure to infectious agents, early in life might play an important role in the development of the disease.

In addition, the rising incidence of type 1 diabetes in recent years has coincided with the introduction of a growing number of childhood vaccines. Current guidelines for infant vaccination call for up to 18 injections that protect against 12 different infectious diseases by the time children reach 2 years of age.

"There has been this temporal association between increased immunization and the occurrence of type 1 diabetes," says Richard Insel, MD, executive vice president for research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He says the groups that say type 1 diabetes is caused by immunization base this on very little data.

"In my opinion, this article is very important because it will lay to rest the accusations that have been made suggesting that childhood immunization causes childhood diabetes," Insel tells WebMD.

Vaccinations Don't Increase Diabetes Risk

In the study, researchers looked at all the children born in Denmark from 1990 to 2000 for whom detailed information on vaccinations and type 1 diabetes was available.

Among this group of 739,694 children, 681 were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Researchers compared the risk of developing the disease among unvaccinated children with children who had received at least one dose of the following common childhood vaccines and combinations:

  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and inactivated poliovirus

  • Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, and inactivated poliovirus

  • Whole-cell pertussis vaccine

  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)

  • Oral poliovirus

The study showed that there was no significant increase in diabetes risk associated with single or escalating doses of any of the vaccines.

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