Vaccines: Benefits outweigh the risks


The science is in. The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. Still, the debate about the value of vaccines continues. Here are some facts from Kaiser Permanente Health Research Institute to help you make the right health decision for your child.

What are the benefits of vaccines?

Vaccines protect against diseases that can harm your child. Some of these diseases can cause serious long-term health problems or death.

Vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical intervention, including antibiotics or surgery. Vaccines also help prevent disabilities such as blindness and paralysis that can be caused by disease.

What are the risks of vaccines?

Vaccines can cause mild side effects that usually appear within a couple days. The most common are fever or soreness where the shot was given.

Serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, one child in a million may have a severe allergic reaction to the DTaP vaccine. There is no evidence that vaccines are linked to chronic diseases such as autism, autoimmune disease, asthma, or diabetes.

Haven’t we gotten rid of these diseases in the U.S.?

No. The vaccines that Kaiser Permanente and other health care organizations recommend are for diseases that still show up in the United States, so children are still at risk. You may have heard about whooping cough (pertussis) becoming more common in the Northwest. More than 4,000 cases were reported in Washington and Oregon between 2004 and 2007. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington experienced an epidemic in 2012.

Will my child be exposed to toxins from these vaccines?

No. Vaccines do contain some additives. But today’s vaccines have fewer additives than the ones you may have had as a child. Still, some additives are necessary for vaccines to be safe and effective.

Aluminum is present in some vaccines to improve immune response. However, healthy babies quickly eliminate aluminum from their bodies. In fact, babies get more aluminum from breast milk or formula in their first six months of life than they do from vaccines.

The influenza vaccine—or “flu shot”—is the only childhood vaccine that contains the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. But the best scientific evidence clearly shows that the thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism or other harmful effects. The form of mercury known to be dangerous to health has never been in any vaccines.


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