Vaccine Safety

Immunization Vaccine Safety

How can I know that vaccines are safe?

Experts who monitor the use of vaccines agree that today’s vaccine supply in the United States (US) is the safest and most effective in history. All vaccines undergo years of testing before they are approved for use. Once they become available, vaccines are continually checked for safety and effectiveness. Any problems that arise can be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which reviews the problems and further investigates those determined to be vaccine-related. Appropriate actions may be taken, up to and including withdrawing the vaccine from use.

Like any medication, no vaccine is 100% safe; however, most people experience no side effects after vaccination. If side effects do occur, they are usually mild. Typical mild side effects are soreness, swelling, or redness at the spot where the injection was given, or mild fever. Severe side effects, including severe allergic reactions, are extremely rare.

Benefits outweigh risks

The most important thing to remember is that the benefits of immunization are much greater than any possible risks. Vaccines protect us from many serious diseases. Thanks to vaccines, most people in the US have never seen a case of polio, measles, or diphtheria. But before vaccines were available, these and other diseases caused widespread illness, complications, and death.

Before a vaccine was available for measles, half a million cases occurred in an average year; polio crippled thousands of children and adults; and rubella, or German measles, caused hundreds of babies to be born with deafness, mental retardation, or other defects.

Vaccines have been so successful, in fact, that people hear more today about possible side effects from vaccines than the very real dangers of the diseases themselves.

Immune overload

Babies are exposed to a large number of bacteria and viruses in the environment from the moment they are born. Experts describe vaccines given during the first 2 years of a child’s life as “a raindrop in the ocean of what infants’ immune systems successfully encounter in their environment every day.”*

These and other concerns about vaccines continue to be publicized on the Internet and in other media. Some statements link vaccines to specific diseases in children, such as autism, diabetes, and asthma. However, the evidence is overwhelming that vaccination outweighs the risks.

In the rare event of a serious side effect occurring after vaccination, parents can apply for compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

As with any vaccine, vaccination may not protect 100% of individuals.