medical risks of childhood vaccinations
children's vaccines and autism
childen's vaccines and developmental disorders and brain damage

Children's Vaccines: Research on the Risks for Children and Possible Neurological Consequences

In this very comprehensive and extensive section on vaccines - and children's vaccines in particular - we hope to continually update you in a balanced manner regarding the many new studies and controversies regarding childhood vaccinations and the possible risks of vaccines, especially concerning developmental delays and neurometabolic disorders in children.

We will discuss and review the theories and data surrounding vaccine risks and complications, central nervous system (CNS) pathology, brain damage, demyelination issues, vaccine-induced neuropathies, public policy concerns, the mercury and thimerosal controversy, autoimmunity, and the possible relationship or link between childhood vaccinations and autism spectrum disorders. Please feel free to jump to the "Quick Index on Children's Vaccines" for the entire scope of this material.

To date, this section contains information on the following vaccines:

Recent vaccine research data, clinical trials, standards for pediatric immunization practices and recommendations of independent organizations are cited. Resources and links to additional literature, materials and opinions regarding children's vaccines are also provided.

Information on vaccine risks to children

research on childhood vaccinations

  • See Also Our New Section:   →   
Mercury in Children's Vaccines
Children's Vaccines and Autism
autism linked to vaccines

Vaccine Risks to Children

Introduction to Children's Vaccines

The question of vaccine-related damage provokes tremendous controversy. Conventional opinion holds that vaccines are good, and that those who question vaccination are bad. Two potentially conflicting values operate in this controversy — first, the desire to eliminate disease, and, second, the desire of parents to protect their children from damage. Children's vaccines pose risk. Diseases pose risk. How do we balance the risks from disease with the risk from vaccines? Unfortunately, few studies of the long term risks of vaccines exist. Parents are struggling to make hard decisions in a medical climate of antagonism for even questioning routine and extensive vaccination. Public health laws propose enforced vaccination. Where does the answer lie?

[ Return to "Quick-Index" of Overview of Children's Vaccines and the Possible Risks to Children ]

Can Vaccines Cause Brain Damage in Children?

How Could Children's Vaccines Cause Damage?

No vaccine is perfectly safe. An adverse event can be said to be caused by a vaccine (i.e., a true reaction) if it is associated with a specific laboratory finding and a specific clinical syndrome or both. Alternatively, a clinical or epidemiological study is needed to find out whether the rate of a given syndrome in vaccinated individuals exceeds that expected among unvaccinated controls.

Immune panels and other laboratory tests, medical histories, and the supporting medical literature support a causal association, with increased risks among those children who are sick or have recently been sick. Anecdotal reports, such as those suggesting the onset of autism after MMR vaccine, are important in pointing toward possible relationships, which further investigative work can clarify.

Vaccination may damage children in several ways. Live or attenuated virus vaccination can actually produce the infection that the vaccine is supposed to prevent. For example, live polio should never be administered to a child who comes in contact with an HIV patient, for the attenuated virus can "leap" to the HIV patient and produce polio. Reports exist of normal parents who have developed polio from the viral vaccine given to their children.

A second mechanism of damage comes from neurotoxic materials found sometimes in vaccines. Thimerosal is the most widely discussed, since it contains mercury. The amount is small. Each vaccine is equivalent to the amount of mercury found in a 6 oz. Can of tuna fish. Nevertheless, some argue that even these levels may be important in a vulnerable child.

The third, and probably the most important theory of vaccine damage, relates to allergic reactions and the development of an auto-immune response, stimulated by the vaccine and its adjuvant. Vaccines always contain adjuvants, which are substances known to amplify the body's response to the vaccine. These adjuvants are known to sometimes cause allergic and auto-immune responses on their own.

We refer interested readers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web sites for estimates of disease prevented by vaccines. On-going debate rages over the benefits of vaccine for protection of the public and for prevention of the disease, versus the risk to individuals who receive the vaccine for vaccine-related complications. The question of whether or not a society can force its members to undergo individual risks (complications of vaccination) for the greater public good (disease prevention) is an important part of this question. The Center for Disease Control (as its name implies) represents one answer to these questions, while the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) champions the rights of individual families to refuse vaccines. The NVIC makes a very important, sometimes neglected point:

"Vaccination is a medical procedure which carries a risk of injury or death. As a parent, it is your responsibility to become educated about the benefits and risks of vaccines in order to make the most informed, responsible vaccination decisions."
A similar statement can be made about any medical procedure. There area also possible, but unproven links between MMR vaccine and juvenile diabetes multiple vaccines and autism, and OPV and Gulf War syndrome. Time and further research will tell if these proposed relationships are real

[ Return to "Quick-Index" of Overview of Children's Vaccines and the Possible Risks to Children ]

Complications and Risks of Children's Vaccines

Early Studies on Vaccine Risks and Complications

The history of studies on the risks of vaccines began in 1922 when a smallpox vaccination program caused an outbreak of encephalitis, with a secondary result of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an ascending paralysis ending in death. The polio virus produces a breakdown of the myelin sheath, called poliomyelitis, which results in paralysis. Encephalitis, whether caused through disease or as a result of vaccination, can cause demyelination of the nerves. For more information, see The Mechanism of Encephalitic Damage from Vaccines. General paralysis is rare in regions where no organized vaccination of the population exists. It is impossible to deny a connection between vaccination and the encephalitis which sometimes follows it. [Reference: Wise RP, Kiminyo KP, Salive ME. Hair Loss After Routine Immunizations. J Am Med Assoc 1997; 278: 1176-8.]

In 1935, Thomas Rivers discovered "experimental allergic encephalomyelitis," or (EAE). Until then, it was assumed that encephalitis was caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the nervous system. Rivers was able to produce brain inflammation in laboratory monkeys by injecting them repeatedly with extracts of sterile normal rabbit brain and spinal cord material which made it apparent that encephalitis was an allergic reaction. EAE can explain the association of allergies and autoimmune states with encephalitis.

In 1947, Isaac Karlin suggested that stuttering was caused by "delay in the myelinization of the cortical areas in the brain concerned with speech." In 1988, Dietrich and others, using MRI imaging of the brains of infants and children from four days old to 36 months of age, found that those who were developmentally delayed had immature patterns of myelination.

In 1953 it was realized that some children's diseases - measles in particular - showed an increased propensity to attack the central nervous system. This indicated a growing allergic reaction in the population to both the diseases and the vaccinations for the diseases.

In 1978, British researcher, Roger Bannister, observed that the demyelinating diseases were getting more serious "because of some abnormal process of sensitization of the nervous system."

Some investigators believe that this increased sensitization of the population is being enhanced by vaccination programs.

[ Return to "Quick-Index" of Overview of Children's Vaccines and the Possible Risks to Children ]

Complications and Risks of Children's Vaccines

New Research Studies Studies on Children's Vaccines, Especially Related to Autism

This new section contains additional up-to-date information that is relevant to the controversial theory that there may be a link between children's vaccinations and the dramatic increase in autism's prevalence. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) both oversee the entire childhood vaccination schedule and its implementation and safety in the United States, and both of these government institutions, along with the asserted independence of the IOM (Institute of Medicine) have continually insisted that there is absolutely no link between children's vaccines and autism and that mercury in children's vaccines has essentially been eliminated because of that concern.

This section includes the examination of many recent research studies and provides information from the CDC and FDA websites that are not easily accessible to the general public but are published here either through these agencies lack of website security - meaning that this information was at one time (and may still be) posted by these government agencies but was not intended for public consumption - or has come from transcripts of actual CDC/FDA meetings relating to these matters which were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that appear to contraindicate their public statements.

Our assessment is that the FDA and CDC and other government agencies are acutely aware that there very well may be (and we wish to indicate here that "maybe" is the operative and important qualifier) a connection between children's vaccines and autism spectrum disorders or other neurological and Developmental Disorders, including PDD-NOS and Mitochondrial Disorders (sometimes referred to as "Mitochondrial Disease").

What appears to be happening is that that there is continually more recent research that is showing that there might be a connection between childhood vaccinations and autism spectrum disorders. On a continuum with that, it appears that the FDA and the CDC wish to suppress this published research and that they choose to conduct studies that are not capable of finding causality between children's vaccines and autism and instead fund studies that are not capable of or are not designed to find causality. According to some well-respected resources in these government agencies, they have an understandable concern that if it was revealed that there might be a connection between autism (or other developmental disorders) and children's vaccines, such concern could lead to concerned parents to withdraw their children from the sometimes mandatory Schedule for Routine Vaccinations, and that could then lead to epidemic or even pandemic cases of other childhood diseases such as Measles and Diphtheria, for which immunization has proved to be very beneficial and without significant risk.

While our position has always been to not persuade our readers to favor one choice as opposed to another, but rather to provide information that will help them make a balanced and individual choice, we also note that parents who refuse to have their children immunized are being blamed for an increase in communicable childhood diseases (such as measles) and are thus perhaps significantly putting the rest of the population at risk. This only makes the controversy about children's vaccines more divisize than it already is, which is in not in one's best interest.

Our new section is perhaps highlighted by the testimony via an exclusive CBS interview of Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding this vaccine controversy. In this interview, Dr. Healy says, "I think the government, or certain health officials in the government, are - have been too quick to dismiss the concerns of these families without studying the population that got sick. I haven't seen major studies that focus on - three hundred kids, who got autistic symptoms within a period of a few weeks of a vaccine. I think that the public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational, without sufficient studies of causation. I think that they often have been too quick to dismiss studies in the animal laboratory, either in mice, in primates, that do show some concerns with regard to certain vaccines and also to the mercury preservative in vaccines. The government has said, in a report by the Institute of Medicine - and by the way, I'm a member of the Institute of Medicine. I love the Institute of Medicine - but a report in 2004 - it basically said, 'Do not pursue susceptibility groups. Don't look for those patients, those children, who may be vulnerable'. I really take issue with that conclusion. The reason why they didn't want to look for those susceptibility groups was because they're afraid if they found them - however big or small they were - that that would scare the public away. First of all, I think the public's smarter than that; the public values vaccines. But, more importantly, I don't think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you're afraid of what it might show!"

This new section is fairly complex in that there is a great deal of information presented in a small space. In order to guide you to your specific area of interest, here are some links to just a few of our new subsections:

Written and overseen by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry
Department of Family Medicine / University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine


Coordinator for Integrative Psychiatry and System Medicine
Program in Integrative Medicine / University of Arizona College of Medicine

Clinical Program Director, Continuum Center for Health and Healing,
Beth Israel Hospital / Albert Einstein School of Medicine

Medical Director
Center for Complementary Medicine / University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Hosted and maintained by The Healing Center On-Line © 2001 - 2009

You may also return to these sections:

autism research and vaccination information


Website Designed, Created and Hosted by The Healing Center On-Line and Clearstory Studios
All Content and Images   |   © 2001 - 2009   |   All Rights Reserved