Issue: October 2011
October 01, 2011
1 min read

IOM: Vaccines do not cause autism

Issue: October 2011
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Few health problems are caused by or clearly linked to vaccines, according to results of a review of more than 1,000 research articles conducted by a committee of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine.

The committee observed no association between immunization and high-profile conditions such as type 1 diabetes and autism. However, there was convincing evidence that certain vaccines may be linked, albeit rarely, to 14 health outcomes, including seizures, inflammation of the brain and fainting. Less clear associations between four other outcomes, including allergic reactions and temporary joint pain, also were observed.

Data were insufficient to draw conclusions regarding other adverse events.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (M-M-R II, Merck) may result in fever-triggered seizures in some cases, but the seizures rarely yield long-term effects. This same vaccine may also cause brain inflammation in severely immunocompromised patients.

The varicella vaccine (Varivax, Merck) was linked to brain swelling, pneumonia, hepatitis, meningitis, shingles and chickenpox in a minority of patients, including immunocompromised patients and, in rare instances, patients with competent immune function.

Anaphylaxis may be caused by six vaccines: MMR, varicella, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal and the tetanus-containing vaccines.

“In general, the injection of vaccines can trigger fainting and inflammation of the shoulder,” according to the IOM press release.

Regarding the evidence that vaccines may lead to other adverse events, the committee said the MMR vaccine may trigger short-term joint pain in some women and children; the HPV vaccine (Gardasil, Merck) may yield anaphylaxis; and some influenza vaccines used abroad may be associated with a mild, temporary oculo-respiratory syndrome characterized by conjunctivitis, facial swelling and mild respiratory symptoms.

The committee also said the MMR vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccines do not cause type 1 diabetes, and the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Influenza vaccination does not cause Bell’s palsy or exacerbate asthma.

The review will be key to aiding the Department of Health and Human Services administer the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, according to the authors of the IOM report.

For more information, please visit the IOM website.

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