Immunizations are associated with certain well-known risks. However, they are often associated with risks that have not been proven, such as a possible connection between autism and immunizations. Many people choose not to immunize their children because they believe that they create more risks for their children than contracting the diseases would. This has not been born out by statistical evidence, nor is it the position of the most recognized medical organizations in the world, like the American Medical Association (AMA), or the World Health Organization (WHO).
The identifiable risks with vaccinations are complications from the vaccination, allergic reaction to a vaccination, or exposure to thimerosal, which contains mercury. Risks not associated with immunizations include increased rates for autism, or reduced capacity of the immune system.
The most common reactions associated with vaccinations are fever, soreness at the sight of the shot, and occasionally rash. Most often fever is one of the risks associated with the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine, and with the Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTP) shot.
The live polio vaccination was thought to possibly cause polio in some children and those caring for young children who were immunosuppressed were at minor risk of contracting the disease from children’s feces or body fluids. Now children are usually given a dead polio vaccine shot first before giving the live polio vaccine drops to minimize risks of contracting the disease.
The chicken pox vaccination has also been associated with the occasional case of chicken pox, or with not providing total immunity from chicken pox. However, it can be stated that the risk of getting chicken pox from the vaccine is minor. If a child does get chicken pox from the vaccine it is usually a fairly mild version. Furthermore, children without complete immunity often have a very mild version of chicken pox if they contract it at a later time.
The greatest risks associated with the meningitis vaccination now recommended for children at age 11 or 12, is pain from the vaccine, and pain at the site of the vaccine for several days to weeks afterwards. This far outweighs the risks associated with contracting meningitis, which can quickly cause death.
Some vaccinations can cause complications. For example the flu vaccine can, though rarely, cause paralysis of the face, called Bell’s Palsy. Others are concerned about giving the flu vaccine to children since many versions contain thimerosal. In fact, concern over this mercury-containing agent, which is used to protect the integrity of the vaccine, has led to most children’s vaccines being made without thimerosal.
There are now companies also manufacturing flu vaccine without thimerosal for those parents who feel that the risks associated with exposure to thimerosal outweighs the benefits of being protected from the flu. So far, a link between thimerosal and autism has not been established or proven. In fact, in many cases, statistical studies show that autism develops where no vaccine with thimerosal has been given.
The most dangerous risks associated with immunizations are the rare allergic reactions or seizures resulting form a vaccine. If your child has had an adverse reaction to a certain immunization in the past, it is important to inform a doctor before the child receives other immunizations. Again, however, benefits outweigh risks. Far more children suffer adverse reactions from contracting a disease because they are not immunized, than they do from having an allergic reaction to a shot.