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A vaccine is basically a foreign substance that we put in the body so your body has a reaction to it. As a result, when your body sees that bacteria or infection later on in life, you have an appropriate immune response to protect your body from it, thanks to the vaccine.
The benefits of vaccines are great. Vaccines prevent the most common causes of infections. Generally, the most common causes of an infection were busy and mortality in children. This is really the major benefit of vaccines, with very few side effects.
Well, in general there aren't many risks of vaccines. The most common side effects we see with vaccines are fever and fussiness for up to 48 hours, and that we can treat with some Tylenol or Motrin. There may be a little redness around the injection after the vaccine, which could be there for a couple of days. There could also be a hard lump where the fluid goes into muscle, and that could actually be there for weeks or months after a vaccine. But these things are not things that your child notices. They'll be kicking normally and moving their legs, but it doesn't hurt them. So if it's something that you notice, it's nothing to worry about. Other than that, we really don't see many side effects from vaccines.
In terms of vaccines causing autism, the big issue is with the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine was the only vaccine ever uttered in the same sentence as autism. This all came about from one article in 1998 by this guy, Dr. Wakefield, who is from England. He did a study on a dozen children, and he basically said that in these children it was possible that the autism was caused by the MMR vaccine. After that study, it took off in the media. Around the world vaccine rates for the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine decreased. There were rises in measles cases and measles-related deaths afterwards, despite hundreds of studies since then showing no absolute cause and effect between the MMR vaccine and autism. What's very interesting about this one study that really gained all the popularity with this debate between MMR and autism, is that several years ago it was actually retracted as solely a hypothesis and not true. 10 of Dr. Wakefield's investigators said it did not show that MMR caused autism. This would make a great Law and Order episode, but what happened was that Dr. Wakefield was funded by a law firm that was representing children and families suing vaccine companies for adverse effects, and he was receiving money from this company, which is obviously a conflict of interest. Thus, there has been, to date, no medical evidence showing a cause and effect relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. The hard thing is we just don't know what causes autism. Why the MMR vaccine also came up is there was a timal relationship. Autism is usually diagnosed at around 15 to 18 months of age, and we give the MMR vaccine at a year. However, even though there was a timal relationship, there's never been any proof of a cause and effect relationship. We feel not only MMR, but all vaccines, are safe.
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