The vaccines that children receive when they’re young are quite safe, and the vast majority of them don’t lead to serious side effects, according to a sweeping new review of 67 recent scientific studies on childhood vaccinations. The analysis, published on Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, also found no link between vaccines and autism — effectively debunking a common myth that dissuades some parents from inoculating their children.
The new report is specifically intended to ease parents’ concerns about vaccines, as persistent misconceptions about vaccination have recently spurred a rise in infectious diseases. In order to reassure people who may be worried that their kids’ shots aren’t safe, the federal government commissioned the RAND Corporation to review everything that scientists know about the 11 vaccines recommended for children under the age of six.
Like any medical intervention, vaccines are not without their potential risks. In some rare cases, certain shots can increase kids’ risk of fevers, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems. But the RAND researchers found that those adverse reactions are incredibly unlikely.
“Fortunately, the adverse events identified by the authors were rare, and in most cases, would be expected to resolve completely after the acute event,” researchers wrote in an editorial accompanying their scientific review. “This contrasts starkly with the natural infections that vaccines are designed to prevent, which may reduce the quality of life through permanent morbidities, such as blindness, deafness, developmental delay, epilepsy, or paralysis and may also result in death.”
The new study isn’t the first piece of evidence that there’s nothing wrong with the government’s recommended childhood vaccination schedule. It builds upon a previous review conducted by the Institute of Medicine that reached similar conclusions about vaccine safety. Nonetheless, an estimated 40 percent of U.S. parents have delayed or skipped some of their children’s shots because they incorrectly assume it must not be healthy for kids to get multiple vaccines in a short period of time.
“This report should give parents some reassurance,” Courtney Gidengil, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the RAND report, told USA Today.
However, it’s not always easy to change vaccine-resistant individuals’ minds. Parents who choose to delay their kids’ vaccines typically don’t trust scientists’ opinions on the subject. One recent study found that even disease outbreaks — like the current spread of measles, mumps, and whooping cough here in the United States — aren’t enough to convince more people to vaccinate their kids.
Researchers are hopeful that the wealth of scientific research about vaccine safety will help spur family doctors to be more vocal about the importance of inoculation. Indeed, some pediatricians are even starting to refuse to take on unvaccinated patients, pointing out they don’t want to put their other young patients at risk for catching diseases in their office.