January 16, 2013
IOM: Child Vaccination Schedule Is Safe
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Skeptical parents and organizations have been raising concerns about the federally recommended immunization schedule for young children in recent years over the notion that it is potentially dangerous or has negative side effects.
In light of this debate, the Institute of Medicine, which advises the government, has released a new study by 14 committee members that says the benefits of the federally recommended schedule far outweigh any risks.
"We reviewed the available data and concur with studies that have repeatedly shown the health benefits associated with the recommended schedule, including fewer illnesses, deaths and hospital stays," said committee member Pejman Rohani, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, a professor of complex systems and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
"Every new vaccine is tested for safety and evaluated in the context of the entire schedule before it is added,” Rohani said. “And the systems designed to detect possible harmful effects of immunization have worked well at discovering occasional problems with individual vaccines."
Americans overwhelmingly follow the schedule, with about 90 percent of children receiving most of the vaccines by the time they enter kindergarten. However, ten percent of parents follow the vaccination schedule at a slower pace or ignore it altogether.
According to observers, parental concerns about the vaccinations and their potential side effects are likely fueled by what could seem like an overly aggressive schedule–a recommended 24 immunizations before age 2, and up to five shots in a single visit.
In their report, the committee said they sought to allay any fears by aggressively researching any potential risks associated with the vaccination schedule.
"[HHS] asked the Institute of Medicine to identify research approaches, methodologies, and study designs that could address questions about the safety of the current childhood immunization schedule," the authors wrote, adding that "parents, providers, and public health officials agree that there has been insufficient communication between providers and parents about vaccine safety concerns."
For their report, the committee, which included experts in pediatrics, neurology, medical ethics, immunology, and several other medical fields, examined the existing evidence on the safety of the vaccine schedule. They did not report any evidence suggesting that the schedule is unsafe.
"The committee's efforts to identify priorities for recommended research studies did not reveal an evidence base suggesting that the childhood immunization schedule is linked to autoimmune diseases, asthma, hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning disorders or developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive behavior disorders," the committee wrote.
The committee also recommended healthcare professional and institutions utilize the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a project established in 1990 to monitor immunization safety and address any issues concerning rare and serious events following immunizations. This database currently contains information on the immunization histories of over 9 million people. VSD contains data on patients´ gender, race, age, and other factors and assists researchers in accounting for factors that might affect the public health.
"Future federal research approaches should continue to fund and support the Vaccine Safety Datalink project to study the safety of the recommended immunization schedule," the authors wrote.