Should we be concerned about the safety of vaccines? Does the benefit outweigh any possible risk there is? During the past 20 years of my pediatric practice I have encountered about one or two couples who refused to have their baby vaccinated for reasons I respected, that is accordingly, to let their child’s immune system develop by its own. I tried not to give up with all the needed persuasions based on facts and evidences but alas, they have made up their minds even long before the pregnancy.
There may be few more parents out there who are either skeptical about vaccines, and need reassurance that giving the recommended vaccines for their children is safe and a responsible thing to do, or are unreceptive to recent advances and that still believes that vaccines may do more harm than good. But gone were the days when the older vaccines have excipients, those that contain adjuvants, preservatives, stabilizers and antibiotics at their minimum safe concentrations that had caused common, minor and self-limiting reactions rather than rare and more serious ones.
Reports have shown that most of the childhood immunizations are safe, with only a few associated with rare adverse effects. On more recent studies investigating the risk of conditions such as autism and cancer, there is no scientific evidence to support the link and it was recommended instead to focus their studies on the genetic or biological explanations for the disease. Vaccines undergo a very rigid testing for years before its being used to humans. They have been well scrutinized by immunization safety review board globally whenever there are any adverse effects being notified. For more than a decade now, since 2001, we have been giving majority of vaccines which are thimerosal-free formulations.
To this date, we have about 30 vaccines that can prevent communicable diseases and most of these are given during childhood. We, Pediatricians, want to ensure to have all children get vaccinated as much as possible. There may be few reasons to waive the vaccination to some newborns, cancer patients and to kids whose compromised immune system might make vaccines post some risk. These unimmunized kids however, can get protected as long as all other children get their shots as scheduled and to complete the recommended doses.
Vaccines are good, and disease is bad, and the risk-benefit ratio is favorable for all vaccines.
Dr. Rene P. Allam
Bahrain Specialist Hospital