Are Vaccines Safe?

>>Hi, my name’s Paul Offit. I’m talking to
you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
I think probably one of the most common question we get asked is, “Are vaccines safe?” I think
another way to frame that would be that, “Do the benefits of vaccines clearly and definitively
outweigh the risk?” And, I think the answer to that questions,
assuming one doesn’t have a medical counter indication to a vaccine, is yes. I think the
benefits clearly and definitively do outweigh the risk. But that doesn’t mean that there
are no risks. Because there are risks to vaccines. Certainly, when you get a vaccine there could
be pain, or redness, or tenderness at the site of injection. Sometimes vaccines can
cause fever, including high fever for young children. Fever can often induce something
called a febrile seizure. And although febrile seizure don’t cause any permanent harm, they
can be very hard for any parent to watch. So vaccines do cause those side effects. Rarely,
vaccines can cause more severe side effects. So for example, the oral polio vaccine that
was given in this country from the early 1960s up until around the year 2000, could very
rarely, in about 1 per 2.4 million doses, cause polio itself. That’s why we went away
from that vaccine by the year 2000, and now use only the so-called inactivated polio vaccine,
which doesn’t cause that problem. There was an issue in 1976 associated with
swine flu vaccine that was given in this country, where that vaccine was found to be a very
rare cause of something called Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome, which is an ascending paralysis
that can also be quite severe. It was found to be a consequence of that vaccine in roughly
1 per 100,000 recipients. Measles-containing vaccine, like measles virus,
can cause something called thrombocytopenia, which just means a lowering of the platelet
count. That can cause these sort of little broken blood vessels, so-called petechia to
be seen on the skin. It’s transient, it’s very rare, occurring in about 1 per 30,000
people. But again, it is a possible consequence of that vaccine. And certainly vaccines can contain components
like gelatin, which is used as a stabilizer, or egg proteins, which can be allergenic, causing
occasionally severe hypersensitivity or allergic responses. So, I think the most important thing for parents
to remember is that while vaccines aren’t risk free, a choice not to get a vaccine is
not a risk-free choice, it’s a choice to take a different and far more serious risk. Because
these diseases can cause a tremendous amount of suffering, and hospitalization, and death.
So, I think parents should be reassured that vaccines are safe and that their benefits
clearly outweigh other risks. Thank you.

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