Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the alleged harmful (potential?) side effects of vaccinations/immunizations for infants and children. What are the objective arguments against immunizing?

share|improve this question
6  
@nuc - True, there are diverse opinions—but when you look into the scientific research for/against vaccines, there's no controversy whatsoever. And because of the massive amounts of misinformation constantly being pushed out, this is a question that many parents have, and are likely to continue having. –  Dori Mar 30 '11 at 9:03
5  
Highly related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/95/… –  Nikita Barsukov Mar 30 '11 at 9:23
9  
If people start closing the question, because they don't like the answers. I am off. Come on, ALL questions here could then be closed for the same reasons. Parenting by its nature is subjective and argumentative. Having said that, could some one please show me any objective data against immunization? –  user35 Mar 30 '11 at 13:43
3  
-1, I think this doesn't fit here. I'd rather have this on skeptics.SE. –  Zsub Mar 30 '11 at 19:16
2  
@nuc - Pro-vaccination does not mean Pro-Big Pharma. –  Dori Mar 31 '11 at 23:15
show 3 more comments

9 Answers

up vote 50 down vote accepted

TL;DR: It is not possible to conclude that a vaccine will have no negative effects on health, but it is clear that the net effect of vaccines is positive.

Most of the talk lately has been about how the evidence for a link between autism and MMR vaccination is fraudulent.

So, there is no scientific research that demonstrate that contemporary vaccines are harmful, with the exception of allergic reactions (commonly egg protein) and some minor side effects (fever, headache, sore arm, tears, ...). Since even minor side effects can be serious for some populations, some vaccines are not given to all patients (e.g. those who are too young, old, sick, and/or allergic; CDC Flu Vaccine Summary for Clinicians).

There is substantial evidence that vaccines keep people from contracting serious viruses and chronic diseases.

It is not possible to conclude that a vaccine will have no negative effects on health, but it is easy to estimate the probability that the net effect will be positive. Vaccines are definitely not inert - otherwise they would not work. So, on the pro-vaccine side, there are many lives saved and many lives improved. On the anti-vaccine side there are minor side effects and presently undetectable and unnoticeable 'unknowns'. For the sake of being thorough, the risks of ("hospital-acquired infections) and using needles (Guidice and Campbell, 2006) are accepted as risks that are outweighed by the benefits of receiving health care.

While I can find no compelling objective arguments against vaccinating children, Dr. Sears provides comprehensive and well referenced overview of the arguments in "The Vaccine Book". Dr. Sears proposes the possibility that it would be in the public health interest to give some vaccines at later ages and / or more spread out through time, e.g., so that a child only receives one or two in any visit. I think that his strongest case is to question the practice of giving 1-2 day old newborns a vaccine for Hepatitis B - which is transmitted sexually and through shared needles - because the risks of a Hep B vaccine for infants and toddlers are greater than the extremely low rates of Hep B at this age, given the fact that a child of a few months or a years would be better able to tolerate the vaccine than an infant. However, Offit and Moser (2009) suggest that Dr. Sears under-estimates the risk of Hep-B by misrepresenting previous work (they also point out other flaws in the Sears Vaccine book).


Reference:

Offit and Moser (2009), The Problem With Dr Bob's Alternative Vaccine Schedule, J. Ped. http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2008-2189

Giudice and Campbell (2006) Needle-free vaccine delivery. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, doi:10.1016/j.addr.2005.12.003

share|improve this answer
6  
I will remove the downvote if you remove the sentence "There is no scientific research showing that vaccines are not harmful". This is simply not a reasonable sentence: you cannot prove that something is completely harmless, and there is plenty of research into potential side effects. –  philosodad Mar 30 '11 at 3:06
9  
So obviously there is some connection. Perhaps they are trying to determine if there's a connection. Asking about something is not the same as stating that there's a connection between the thing being asked about and the (possible) problem/symptom. –  tnorthcutt Apr 1 '11 at 12:48
12  
@MasterZ Remember: Correlation does not equal causation. –  Darwy Apr 22 '11 at 12:20
6  
@David it's been my personal experience that breaking the skin isn't uncommon; my son now has his second scar in the shape of teeth marks on his arm. It doesn't have to just be an infant that could be the carrier; older sibling, babysitter. Since the HepB vaccine was introduced, the prevalence rate of HepB has decreased significantly in the 6-19 and 20-49 year old age groups (source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20533878 (but not the 50+ group) Just think about this: 6 year olds testing positive for HepB exposure This is why we vaccinate as young as possible for HepB! –  Darwy Oct 3 '11 at 21:09
6  
@LarianLeQuella That sums up my general impression of Dr. Sears. Just about everything I've read of his work seems to be largely based on speculation under the guise of his "decades of experience", rather than scientific research, and he seems to have no hesitation to exaggerate the risks of not buying his book and following his advice. –  Beofett Jan 2 '12 at 13:32
show 13 more comments

None, really.

There are, on the other hand, strong arguments for immunisation: namely, it helps prevent terrible illnesses.

share|improve this answer
2  
While I don't generally disagree with your assessment, if we are seeking to provide helpful and full answers, his statement doesn't generally answer the question. There ARE arguments (minor side affects, rare allergies, ???), while miniscule and probably outweighed, by the benefits, against immunizing. –  talon8 Mar 30 '11 at 1:34
3  
I don't totally disagree, but this is quite a dismissive and non-objective response, which is particularly bad since the question asked for objective arguments to the contrary. –  Javid Jamae Mar 30 '11 at 4:11
3  
It's a dismissive and objective response. –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 9:14
10  
@nuc @Javid You are abusing the word 'objective.' The scientific consensus is very clear that modern childhood vaccines are safe. The burden of proof is on the other side. Ask for specific effects and you will get a discussion of those. Sometimes, just debating an issue too much gives the scaremongers credibility (like when the inteligent design crowd asks that, even if you don't agree, you should teach the controversy; they are clamoring for this recognition). –  luispedro Mar 30 '11 at 13:47
4  
@nuc: It has 11 upvotes because it is correct and to the point, which is helpful. It has nothing to do with "wanting to hear". –  Lennart Regebro Mar 31 '11 at 6:17
show 2 more comments

There is really no reason against immunisation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunization. The benefits are massive. I would actually go as far as stating that denying your child immunization should be considered a crime, similar to not protecting your child with seatbelts and child seats

share|improve this answer
    
There are actually some reasons for certain populations. While, over-all, the benefits usually outweigh the risks, some do exist and some vaccinations are for relatively harmless diseases. A person with questions should speak with the child's pediatrician, and take the offered suggestions seriously (which will usually mean getting the vaccine), but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say there is "no argument against" or that not getting them should be a "crime". parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/1513/… –  balanced mama Jan 22 '13 at 0:20
add comment

I very highly recommend the book Bad Science by Dr. Ben Goldacre.
It is very relevant to your question and addresses some of the concerns you may have about Immunization.

It is also a very good book about understanding the difference between Scientific Research results and how they are published in the Media.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The question does not specify which immunizations specifically. Some vaccines are virtually harmless except for the common side-effects and very rare but serious reactions. But other vaccines are unnecessary or at least not as important as others because they are for diseases that are mild or virtually non-existent. It's no different than drugs. What are the objective arguments for and against drugs? It depends entirely on the drug and what it's for.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Here is the only medical research that I am aware of that connects immunizations with earlier onset of seizures in this disorder: http://www.onmedica.com/newsarticle.aspx?id=e7c292a8-9949-4a65-91f1-3a80d51a7f3b

This article emphasizes that the immunization does not cause the disease, but it does appear to cause it to manifest earlier.

FYI: Here is a link to an exhaustive investigative work on the source of the MMR-Autism vaccine scare. It is lengthy, but very enlightening!

share|improve this answer
add comment

My wife's brother and cousin both developed autism immediately after getting their MMR vaccine. They had a severe reaction that included fever and seizures and they were autistic afterwards. The medical community can state all day long that the vaccines did not cause this and we do not believe them. Watch the movie The Greater Good for more information about this.

It is believed that some people's bodies aren't able to deal with the mercury in the vaccines. We will not be giving our children any vaccines.

Vaccines were not responsible for the decline in diseases anyway: http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/graphs/

Update:

I should have left out the 'propaganda' stuff and just given a personal testimony. Oh well.

Ana, yes. Her brother was 18 months when this happened. He was talking. He got his MMR shot. That night he got the fever and seizures. That lasted two days. After this he stopped talking and eating and he wouldn't look at people any more. They stopped giving him vaccines. Her brother was fortunate and got much better. Today 11 years later you would just think he's odd. Her cousin was not fortunate. Today he is a 20-year old severely autistic young man. He still does not speak or look at you and his parents take care of him.

share|improve this answer
2  
The general medical and scientific community is pretty clear that the mercury found in vaccines (few, if any, of which are part of standard childhood immunizations in the US) is unrelated to ASD. The idea that vaccines cause autism has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Claiming vaccines "do more harm than good" is dangerously wrong. –  Beofett May 25 '12 at 19:55
3  
The movie 'The Greater Good' is propaganda, plain and simple. It does not have supporting science or studies behind it. Your final link is to a known anti-vaccination propaganda site, and the conclusion of 'vaccines were not responsible for the decline in diseases anyway' is also incorrect. None of those graphs present indicate the MORBIDITY of the diseases (their incidence), instead focusing on the mortality. –  Darwy May 25 '12 at 20:08
    
I'm very curious about the sudden development of autism (regardless of the cause). Did the kids point to objects before? Make eye contact? Cry when their parents left the room? Understand a few words, respond to commands like: "Bring me the ball"? I read that autism can be diagnosed only about 18 months into someone's life, but I find that strange as my kid was smiling and blabbering to toys with a face (eyes) already when he was three months old. He would also look directly into your eyes (not your hand) if you would suddenly grab his foot. Does all of this suddenly disappear with autism? –  Ana May 26 '12 at 7:29
    
Ana, I updated my answer. –  Sarel Botha May 26 '12 at 12:25
    
@Ana autism is a spectrum disorder. There's no 'one' symptom that defines it. –  DA01 May 26 '12 at 16:39
show 1 more comment

The short of it is that there is none. The study that claimed a link between MMR and autism was fraudulent.

The current theory is that autism is the result of an autoimmune disease, related to rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Crohn's Disease, etc (in fact, it's known that a mother with RA or a family history of same places that woman at a greater risk for having a child with autism). The body produces antibodies that view certain brain cells as abnormal and "foreign", and attacks them.

The supposed link between autism and vaccinations can thus be explained by the vaccine's intended effect of causing an immune response in the child's body; the elevated white cell count and production of antibodies to "fight" the vaccine's disease triggers the autoimmune response. However, that doesn't mean the vaccine itself causes autism, nor that not vaccinating your at-risk kids will prevent them from developing autism. The first time your child gets sick, gets an infected scrape, or even gets allergies, the autoimmune response will kick in.

That means that if your child has the genetic predisposition to develop autism, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Vaccinate the child and the vaccine causes the child to develop autism; don't vaccinate the child, and the disease the vaccine would have innoculated your child against will do the same damage. Given that the genetic factors that cause autism are roughly a 1 in 110 chance in the general population, while the diseases that the vaccines prevent are a 1 in 1 shot if your child is exposed, it's madness to not vaccinate your children, especially if you don't know that you have risk factors for autism.

share|improve this answer
    
Interesting. I had not heard the autoimmune theory. Could you provide some links to sources on this theory? –  Beofett May 25 '12 at 20:01
    
    
The research found relationships between the genetic variants that cause autism and the ones that cause MS and ankylosing spondylitis (related to RA). The evidence suggests the variants may have evolved for a similar reason as sickle cell; if you have only a few of the markers, your chance of developing AS goes down (like having a "mild" sickle cell trait helps protect against malaria), but if you have the wrong combination of the variants they cause their own problems (similar in theory to sickle cell anemia). –  KeithS May 25 '12 at 20:10
    
Great, thanks! I've added the link into the body of your answer. The question isn't really focused on autism, and as I mentioned in comments to another answer, there do appear to be objective reasons not to have vaccines unrelated to autism (not ones that I happen to agree with, but I can't completely discount them), so I can't upvote this answer here, but I really appreciate the information, and in another context I'd love to upvote it. –  Beofett May 25 '12 at 20:11
1  
@Sarel going to school sometimes causes injury. Taking a bath sometimes causes injury. Speculation and edge cases are not the kind of data parents should be basing decisions pertaining the well being of their children on. –  DA01 May 26 '12 at 16:37
show 3 more comments

Here are some arguments:

  1. The government created the vaccine injury compensation fund in 1988 to pay people injured by vaccines. Their site is here: http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/index.html
  2. In the 1970s pharmaceutical companies were being sued a lot for vaccine injury. These companies were going to stop producing vaccines but the government stepped in and made a law that makes it illegal for anyone to sue a pharmaceutical company for vaccine injury. More info here: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccine_Monitoring/history.html

As a parent you have to decide what poses a greater risk to your child: the diseases or the immunization.

It may be against your religion, specifically Christianity and Judaism. Leviticus prohibits consuming 'diseased' meat. Vaccines are made by infecting animal or human fetal tissue and then extracting the virus from it. Every vaccine contains some infected tissue.

You may also object to aborted fetuses being used in this way. For some vaccines you can find a vaccine from a different manufacturer that uses animal tissue as opposed to aborted human fetal tissue.

Not one study has been done to investigate whether there are any negative effects associated with the complete vaccine schedule recommended by the CDC. Individual vaccines must be tested but they're not all tested together. A controlled study should be performed that compares vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

share|improve this answer
3  
As a parent you should not be making decisions on medical harm just based on what you read online. You should also be consulting trained medical practitioners--which a vast majority will tell you what the science says: get your child vaccinated. The two bullets points are also not very useful arguments against immunization. They're likely very good arguments for total health care reform (taking power away from big pharma) but don't, in and of themselves, provide an argument for not vaccinating your child. –  DA01 May 26 '12 at 16:35
2  
Also, it's not just about what would cause greater risk to your child. It's also about what would cause a greater risk to your child...and their siblings...and their classmates...and their community. –  DA01 May 26 '12 at 16:41
2  
@Beofett the question is fine. It's asking for objective reasons against immunization. This answer does not contain objective reasons against immunization unless we count extreme and specious edge cases based on questionable correlations. We COULD count that, but, again, then nearly every question asked on the site could have these considered as useful answer when they really are not. –  DA01 May 27 '12 at 17:32
3  
The source given reads: "Legal decisions were made and damages awarded despite the lack of scientific evidence to support vaccine injury claims", so I don't think it answers the question the way it's being presented here. An attempt to prevent out-of-court settlements for nuisance suits from leading to epidemics is not evidence of serious harm, it's evidence of ambulance chasing. As Beofett points out, there is a good table there, but all it gives is an acknowledgement of potential harm, not actual figures. –  deworde May 28 '12 at 0:54
2  
Not a useful answer. As noted by others, the creation of the VICF is not an objective argument against vaccinations, nor is the removal of liability from the pharmaceutical companies - since the fund was created to ensure that those who do experience the extremely rare serious adverse reaction could be compensated for it. It's a bit odd - claiming that removal of liability is a reason to not vaccinate, while also claiming that the fund set up to compensate families for not being able to sue the companies is also a reason to not vaccinate. That's rather circular... –  Darwy May 28 '12 at 11:17
show 2 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.