There has been a long time fear that vaccine can bring the onset of serious mentally and physically debilitating illness such as the scourges of diabetes, asthma, or even Bell’s palsy. However, a new study from the nonprofit Institute of Medicine finds that vaccines cause few health problems in fact.

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University explains:

“The findings should be reassuring to parents that few health problems are clearly connected to immunizations, and these effects occur relatively rarely. And repeated study has made clear that some health problems are not caused by vaccines. MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] does not cause autism; MMR does not cause type 1 diabetes. DTaP [diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis] does not cause type 1 diabetes. The flu vaccine does not aggravate asthma, and the flu vaccine doesn’t cause Bell’s palsy.”

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that Bell’s palsy is a common neurological disorder that accounts for up to 75% of all peripheral facial palsies. Although the etiology of Bell’s palsy is not clear, one of the theories put forward involves an autoimmune etiology.

In fact, following the introduction of newly licensed intranasal influenza vaccine in Switzerland in October 2000, 46 cases of Bell’s palsy were noted among people who received the vaccine. The situation warranted a thorough investigation to determine if there is any association between influenza vaccine and Bell’s palsy in which VSD researchers conducted a case-control study. As part of the study, researchers identified people with Bell’s palsy who are members of HMOs participating in the VSD project. At each participating site, medical records of persons with Bell’s palsy were reviewed to assess exposure to influenza vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, Td vaccine, and other vaccines.

Final analyses calculating the relative risk of Bell’s palsy following vaccination as well as the incidence of Bell’s palsy among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations have been conducted and there appears to be little connection between the two variables.

For this most recent study, The Institute of Medicine panel looked at more than 1,000 research articles on behalf of the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The findings will provide a scientific basis when the VICP, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reviews legal claims about vaccine injuries and decides whether to compensate people who file those claims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states:

“Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days. Listed below are vaccines licensed in the United States and side effects that have been associated with each of them. Remember, vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk and could put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease.”

So, the bottom line is to get vaccinated. It does save lives, and the health benefits from the vaccine far outweigh any risks.

Written by Sy Kraft