Despite what is often falsely reported in the media and at many scaremongering web sites, all recommended vaccines are extraordinarily safe.
When you consider that the 3.5 to 4 million children born every year in the United States receive more than twenty different vaccines to protect them from at least eleven different preventable diseases by the time they are six years old, and that some of these vaccines have existed for more than fifty years, I think you’ll agree that the record of vaccine safety in this country is remarkable.
For the most part, vaccine side effects are usually limited to pain and tenderness where the shot was given or to low-grade fever.
But worry persists because of some problems that occurred with the “old” pertussis vaccine and the “old” oral polio vaccine (OPV)—problems that have been remedied.
The old pertussis vaccine (the preparation called DTP, which stopped being recommended for use in the United States in 1997) rarely caused temporary seizures, persistent crying, and high fever, but no permanent damage.
Parents understandably found it difficult to watch their children suffer these side effects.
The new pertussis vaccine (DTaP, approved by the FDA in 1991) is purer than the old vaccine and almost completely eliminates these rare side effects.
Because it was a live vaccine, the OPV (oral polio vaccine) caused—but very, very rarely—complete and lifelong paralysis, usually after the first dose.
Because the wild poliovirus was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1991, the only children who now get polio in this country are those who received OPV. Therefore, in 2000, the CDC recommended discontinuation of OPV, to be replaced with four doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which has not been shown to cause paralysis, but does have to be given by injection.
Here are other blogs in this series you might find useful: