The IOM confirms that vaccines are safe

The IOM has released a report entitled, Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality:

The committee finds that evidence convincingly supports a causal relationship between some vaccines and some adverse events—such as MMR, varicella zoster, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal, and tetanus-containing vaccines linked to anaphylaxis. Additionally, evidence favors rejection of five vaccine-adverse event relationships, including MMR vaccine and autism and inactivated influenza vaccine and asthma episodes. However, for the majority of cases (135 vaccine-adverse event pairs), the evidence was inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship. Overall, the committee concludes that few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines.

Take home points? You can get side effects from vaccines (like all medications), but they are rare and limited. There is also enough evidence to reject a relationship between MMR and autism, as well as some other popularly believed problems. This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, as I pretty much lost my mind here when BMJ published their article on the MMR/Autism FRAUD.

Nevertheless, CommonHealth has posted five “responses” to this news. I have to be honest, I really don’t like that kind of thing. I don’t believe that posting five opinions does much to promote knowledge in this area. Science isn’t decided by consensus. I don’t have the time or strength to counter every argument against vaccines in those opinions, but there is one point I’d like to make.

Originally, people declared that MMR was the cause of autism. That research has now been shown to be a fraud. Instead of accepting that the hypothesis was false, people seem to be looking for new ways to blame vaccines for autism. That’s a belief looking for some evidence, as opposed to evidence forming a belief. One of the reasons posited at the end of the CommonHealth piece is that the number of vaccines are harmful. Thirty-two! But the number of shots is irrelevant. This is from my book (which you should buy!):

Another point, often overlooked, is that it is not the number of vaccines, or even the number of shots, that matters.  It’s the number of antigens in those vaccines. An antigen is a molecule that the immune system recognizes. The immune system decides whether any molecules it comes in contact with belong to itself or whether they should be treated as foreign intruders. Vaccines are specifically designed to show the immune system an antigen that belongs to a particular disease so that the immune system will be armed and equipped to fight against that disease if it sees it again. Advances in technology have helped scientists create vaccines that contain fewer and fewer antigens and yet achieve a good response from your immune system.  Back in the day, a single smallpox vaccine had over 200 different proteins in it. In the 1980s, the 7 vaccines routinely given to children contained more than 2000 antigens. Now, the 11 vaccines in the currently recommended schedule have only about 125 antigens in all. Even though it seems like a lot of shots, the immune system has to do far less work to respond to the current set of antigens than children’s immune systems have had to do over the past 30 years.

This also ignores the fact that the body is responding to way more antigens from the natural environment all the time.

Vaccines work. Nothing is completely and utterly 100% safe, but vaccines are safer than tons of things we do and take every day. You really should get your kids vaccinated.

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