Immunization-preventable diseases are far more likely to cause injury or illness than immunizations. Most reactions to immunizations will be limited to a mild fever or sore arm.
Immunization preventable illnesses can cause devastating consequences like paralysis, brain swelling/damage, or even death. Most immunizations are given in the first two years of a child’s life – this is when the human body is immunocompromised and at higher risk for infection from these deadly bacteria and viruses.
The physicians and providers at the Children's Clinic strongly support immunization because we have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of diseases like pertussis, influenza, measles, Haemophilus influenzae, and pneumococcus – just to name a few. We are dedicated to doing everything we can to make sure our patients do not suffer from these devastating diseases.
Immunizations contain ingredients that allow them to be administered safely. The immunization ingredients we are often asked about are found in incredibly low doses, lower doses than found in typical environmental exposures.
Aluminum has been included in immunizations for over 70 years as an adjuvant, an agent that helps improve the immune response. Aluminum is the most common metal found in nature. It is in our air, food, drink, and even in breastmilk and formula. Infants get more aluminum through breastmilk or formula than immunizations. Breastfed babies ingest about 7 milligrams of aluminum in the first six months, and formula-fed babies ingest up to 120 milligrams in the first six months.
Immunizations over the first year of life add only an additional 4.4 milligrams of aluminum. This additional aluminum has been shown to be safe because aluminum that is taken into the body is mostly eliminated through the kidneys.
Formaldehyde is used to detoxify diphtheria and tetanus toxins or to inactivate a virus, as in polio or hepatitis A. The tiny, trace amount which may be left over from this process is small, safe, and less than what is found in other products in our environment. Formaldehyde is also found in paper products, makeup, carpeting, furniture, flooring, and other environmental exposures. Humans normally have higher levels of formaldehyde in their bloodstream than what is found in immunizations.
Other ingredients in immunizations, like antibiotics and additives (e.g., gelatin, albumin, sucrose, lactose, glycine), help keep the immunization safe during storage. These additives are similarly found in products used every day.
The intent of the adjuvants, additives, and preservatives in immunizations is actually to keep them safe and effective.
There is no link between immunizations and autism. The fear that immunizations cause autism arose from a study in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon. This study, published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, linked the MMR vaccine to autism. The paper study has since been discredited due to multiple errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. The Lancet retracted the study, and Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license.
The medical community responded seriously to the concern about a link between immunizations and autism. Since then, multiple studies around the world have been done. None show a link between immunizations and autism.
Science has not yet determined the specific cause of autism, but studies have shown that symptoms of autism appear before the MMR immunization is even administered, furthering the argument that there is no link between MMR and autism.
Immediately from the time of birth, a newborn immune system gets exposed to many antigens/immune challenges. Simply traveling through the birth canal exposes a newborn to trillions of bacteria. Healthy babies begin to develop their immune systems right away by creating antibodies to these bacteria and antigens.
Immunizations use only a small proportion of a baby's immune system. The antigens (sugars and proteins) in the immunizations are required for a baby/child to create antibodies/immune responses. Today's immunizations contain fewer antigens than previously (the combination of all 14 immunizations contains only 150 immunologic components, while in the past, a single immunization may have contained up to 200 immunologic components) while also creating a robust immune response in children.
Given the safety of immunizations in general and the appropriate immune response in children, at the Children's Clinic, we do not recommend a delayed or alternative immunization schedule. There is no evidence that spacing out immunizations lessens adverse events. In our experience, spacing out immunizations over multiple clinic visits increases stress in children and makes them fearful of coming to the clinic.
Immunization efficacy depends not only on an individual receiving an immunization but also on individuals in the community being immunized. Many immunization-preventable illnesses are incredibly contagious, so it's not always enough to immunize yourself/your child – you also need the community around you to do its part and immunize. For example, measles is so transmissible that 90-95% of people must be immunized to protect the entire population.
Immunizations are safe, effective, and an important tool in protecting our children. Physicians and providers at the Children's Clinic are committed to keeping our patients and community healthy. We’ll check immunization records at each visit and update shots whenever needed. Immunization-only appointments can also be scheduled at your convenience.
In addition to the information above, the following easy to read handouts from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia provide answers to many frequently asked questions and concerns regarding immunizations.