Facts

Vaccination does not cause SIDS, autism, allergies or asthma

Check your source of information

Ensure your decisions about immunisation are based on fact. When doing your personal reading, make sure your source of information is based on scientific fact.

Beware of misguided and misleading (yet compelling) information about immunisation on the internet. Also, advice from well-meaning friends and relatives may not always be factually correct.

Your best source of information about immunisation is your doctor or your vaccine service provider.

Medical researchers test their findings repeatedly. Studies should use factual evidence and acknowledge any limitations.

Look for:

  • a substantial number of people involved in the study
  • findings that compare the immunised group with a control group (e.g. placebo)
  • findings repeated by many researchers. Be wary of people who proclaim that they alone found the ‘hidden truth’
  • studies endorsed by universities, professional associations or published in recognised peer-reviewed publications.

Vaccines are safe

Vaccines are rigorously tested on thousands of people in progressively larger clinical trials which are monitored for safety.

In Australia, every vaccine must pass stringent safety testing before the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will register it for use.

Once registered, the TGA coordinates very robust surveillance to detect any possible safety issues with the vaccine.

Serious adverse reactions are rare

Common reactions to vaccines are generally mild and temporary, such as localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and low grade fever.

Serious reactions such as severe allergic reactions are extremely rare.

For example, the vaccine for Hib meningitis causes local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site for about 1 in 20 people. One in 50 has fever. In contrast, about 1 in 20 patients with Hib meningitis die and about 1 in 4 survivors have permanent brain or nerve damage.

This is why the benefits of immunisation far outweigh the risks. Having a mild and temporary reaction is worth it given the potentially devastating consequences of contracting a preventable disease.

If there is a reaction:

  • give paracetamol as per directions to lower fever or relieve discomfort
  • consult your doctor if fever persists.

If any reaction occurs that you consider serious or unexpected, seek medical advice. All adverse reactions should be reported to your doctor or vaccine service provider. This helps the TGA to monitor for any vaccine safety issues.

Vaccination myth busting

Some common myths and misunderstandings around immunisation and vaccines:

Immunisation does not cause autism

Conclusive evidence proves that there is no link between MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism.

In 1998, a paper was published claiming a link between MMR vaccine and autism. The journal which published the claim has retracted the original paper and found the data fraudulent.

Media coverage of supposed links between autism and the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps and rubella has concerned some parents.

Reviews by the American Academy of Paediatrics, the British Chief Medical Officer, the UK Medical Research Council, Canadian experts and numerous other scientific experts have found no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

Research indicates there is no difference in the rates of autism between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. While autism may seem more common in recent years, this is due to increased diagnosis stemming from greater awareness about the condition.

Autism Queensland recommends you read evidence-based reviews at www.raisingchildren.net.au and www.cochrane.org if you are concerned.

For more information about the MMR vaccine visit www.ncirs.edu.au/consumer-resources/mmr-decision-aid/

Immunisation does not cause SIDS

Studies of thousands of children worldwide show no links between immunisation and SIDS (cot death). Several studies demonstrate the opposite, with SIDS being less common in babies who were immunised. SIDS and Kids Australia, who specialise in SIDS prevention and bereavement, recommend that all babies receive the normal program of immunisations at the scheduled ages, both in infancy and beyond.

Immunisation does not cause asthma or allergies

There is no link between vaccines and allergic diseases such as asthma or eczema. In some people, vaccines or their components can cause allergic reactions—however, the risk is low. For example, the risk of anaphylaxis (a rapid and life-threatening form of allergic reaction) after a single vaccine dose is estimated at less than one in a million. Vaccines themselves do not cause or worsen allergic diseases.

Vaccines do not contain mercury

Vaccines given through Queensland’s childhood immunisation program have not contained thiomersal since 2000.

Thiomersal is a compound containing mercury which was used as a preservative in some vaccines in very small amounts prior to 2000.

While there is no scientific evidence that the small amounts of thiomersal used in vaccines caused any harmful effects in children or adults, the compound has been removed as a precaution.

Vaccines do not weaken or overwhelm a baby’s immune system

Vaccines actually strengthen your baby’s immune system by stimulating defence mechanisms that provide protection against specific diseases.

Babies are vulnerable to contracting serious life-threatening diseases because their major organ systems are not fully mature.

This is why the National Immunisation Program Schedule recommends your baby receive their primary course of vaccinations at 6 weeks, 4 months and 6 months of age.

Immunity is not achieved through alternative therapies

Only conventional vaccination produces a measurable immune response and protection against disease.

Alternative therapies such as homeopathic methods or chiropractic principles are not proven to protect against infectious diseases.

They have not undergone thorough scientific testing and their use among practitioners varies widely. Australia’s peak homoeopathic body, The Australian Register of Homoeopaths, has even stated that homeoprophylaxis does not guarantee immunity from infectious disease.

No vaccine is 100% effective

Vaccinated people can still get a preventable disease.

However, the impact of the disease is often less severe. Not all individuals develop immunity, but most routine childhood vaccines are effective in 85–99% of people.

Depending on the vaccine, up to 15 out of every 100 vaccinated people may not fully develop protective immunity. This is why high immunisation rates are needed to interrupt the transmission of diseases.

How immunisation works

Note:  While the terms ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’ are often used interchangeably, they do have different meanings. Vaccination is the administration of a vaccine. Immunisation is the process of obtaining immunity to a disease through the administration of a vaccine.

Immunisation works by triggering your immune system’s memory to fight against vaccine preventable diseases. When you are exposed in the future, your immune system is better able to respond to these diseases if you have been vaccinated.

Immunisation stops the disease from developing or reduces the severity of the disease. Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism (the immune response) to build resistance to specific infections.

Immunisation helps people stay healthy by preventing serious infection.

Why immunisation is important

Immunisation is one of our most significant achievements. It saves around 3 million lives world-wide each year and helps to prevent outbreaks and hospitalisations from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Protect your child by ensuring vaccinations are given on time.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many countries. Increased travel and immigration means the risks are real.

Queensland’s childhood immunisation rate is currently over 90%, but below the 95% needed for herd immunity. Herd immunity is when immunity of the whole population is at a level to prevent outbreak of disease.

Herd immunity helps protect people who can’t be vaccinated:

  • because they are too young
  • for medical reasons
  • because they are immuno-suppressed
  • because their immune system doesn’t respond to vaccination.

If your child contracts a vaccine-preventable disease, the consequences could be devastating.

Childhood vaccines are free but you may be charged for your consultation.

Diseases we immunise against

Occurs when Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria, spread by respiratory droplets, infecting the throat and nose. The bacteria cause severe throat and breathing difficulties. Up to 1 in 7 patients die. The bacteria release a toxin, which can produce nerve paralysis and heart failure.

Common reactions to diphtheria vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. On occasion, extensive swelling of the limb can occur, but this resolves completely within a few days. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are very rare. Read more.

An acute infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus spreads by faecal contaminated water/food or through contact with faeces infected with hepatitis A. Seven in 10 adult patients develop jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes), fever, anorexia (decreased appetite) nausea, vomiting, liver pain and tiredness.

Common reactions to the hepatitis A vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. Less common reactions include fever and headache. Read more.

The virus is very serious and causes inflammation of the liver. The virus spreads mainly by blood, sexual contact, or from a carrier mother to newborn baby at the time of birth. One in 4 chronic carriers develops cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Common reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. Less common reactions include fever and headache. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are very rare. Read more.

The infection is caused by a bacteria that can cause:

  • meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)
  • epiglottitis (internal swelling in the throat which can obstruct breathing)
  • pneumonia (lung infection).

Meningitis and epiglottitis can develop quickly and rapidly cause death. Despite its name, it is not related to influenza (the flu). About 1 in 20 meningitis patients die and about 1 in 4 survivors have permanent brain or nerve damage. Epiglottitis is rapidly and invariably fatal without treatment.

Common reactions to the Hib vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. Less common reactions include fever. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are very rare. Read more.

The virus is spread mainly by sexual contact. Up to 80% of people will be infected at some time in their lives. HPV can cause genital warts, cervical, vulval, vaginal, penile and anal cancers, and is also associated with some cancers of the mouth and throat. About 7 in 10 cervical cancers worldwide are associated with HPV.

Common reactions to the HPV vaccine include local swelling, fainting, redness or pain at the injection site. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are very rare. Read more.

Commonly known as the flu is highly contagious and caused by infection from influenza type A or B (or rarely C) virus. Influenza viruses infect the upper airways and lungs and can affect other parts of the body. It is spread by respiratory droplets causing fever, muscle, joint pain and pneumonia. An estimated 3000 people aged over 50 die in Australia each year. The elderly and children under five are most at risk. Pregnant women, diabetics, and people who are obese or have chronic medical conditions are also high risk.

Common reactions to the influenza vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. Fever is also a common reaction in children aged 6 months to 3 years. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are rare. Note: Children under five years of age must not receive bioCSL Fluvax® due to the increased risk of febrile convulsions. However, there are alternative influenza vaccines which are safe for children under 5. Read more.

Is an acute, highly infectious illness caused by the measles virus. Serious complications are pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (brain inflammation). It may also cause middle ear infection. Most deaths occur in children under 5, mainly from pneumonia and occasionally from encephalitis. People with a chronic illness are also high risk. One in 15 children with measles get pneumonia and 1 in 1000 develops encephalitis. One in 10 children who develop measles encephalitis dies and many have permanent brain damage. About 1 in 100,000 develops brain degeneration.

Common reactions to the measles vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. The development of a non-infectious rash may occur. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are rare. Read more.

This disease is a severe infection caused by bacteria that invade the body from the throat or nose. It causes septicaemia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the tissues surrounding the brain). About 10% of the community carry meningococcal bacteria harmlessly at the back of the throat or in the nose, and they remain quite well. But they can spread the bacteria to others, and a few of these people may become seriously ill. About 1 in 10 patients die. Up to 2 in 10 survivors lose limbs or have permanent brain damage. Common reactions to the meningococcal vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site, as well as fever, irritability, loss of appetite or headaches. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are rare. Read more.

Spread by saliva, causes swollen neck and salivary glands, and fever. It can cause infertility in males or permanent deafness. One in 5000 children develops encephalitis (brain inflammation). One in 5 adolescent / adult males develops inflammation of the testes. About 1 in 100 people may develop swollen salivary glands following vaccination with the mumps vaccine. Read more.

A highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can be life threatening for babies and children, while adolescents and adults may only get a persistent cough. Complications in babies include pneumonia, fits and brain damage from prolonged lack of oxygen. Most hospitalisations and deaths occur in babies less than 6 months of age. About 1 in 125 affected babies under 6 months dies from pneumonia or brain damage.

Common reactions to the whooping cough vaccine include swelling, redness or pain at the injection site, or fever. Occasionally extensive swelling of the limb can occur, but this resolves completely within a few days. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are rare. Read more.

Most common in children under 2 and in people over 65. It can develop into invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) and lead to meningitis (infection of the brain covering), septicaemia (blood infection) and pneumonia. Three in 10 people with meningitis die. Pneumococcal causes a third of adult pneumonia cases and up to half of pneumonia hospitalisations.

Common reactions to the pneumococcal vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site, or fever. Babies may also experience irritability, drowsiness and a decreased appetite. Read more.

Infection caused by three types of polioviruses and can affect the cells of the central nervous system and cause paralysis. Australia is certified as polio free by the World Health Organisation. But there is an ongoing risk of polio being imported from other countries, so it is still important that we stay vaccinated against it. Up to 3 in 10 patients with paralytic polio dies and many survivors are permanently paralysed.

Common reactions to polio vaccine include local redness, pain and swelling at the injection site. Other less common symptoms are fever, crying and decreased appetite. Read more.

A group of viruses that can cause severe viral gastroenteritis in infants and children. It is spread by the faecal-oral route and can cause mild diarrhoea to severe dehydrating diarrhoea, fever and death. In the week after receiving rotavirus vaccine, some babies may develop diarrhoea or vomiting. There is a very small risk of intussusception (a treatable rare form of bowel obstruction) in the first few weeks after the first or second doses. Read more.

Virus spread by respiratory droplets. It causes severe malformations in babies of infected pregnant women. Up to 9 in 10 babies infected during the first trimester of pregnancy will have a major congenital abnormality such as deafness, blindness or heart defects. Rubella mainly occurs in young unvaccinated children, or in adolescents and young adults who have received less than 2 doses of the vaccine, and can cause fever, rash and swollen glands.

Common reactions to rubella vaccine include local redness, pain and swelling at the injection site. Less common reactions include swollen glands, stiff neck and joint pains. Read more.

is caused by a toxin produced by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. It causes painful muscle spasms, convulsions and lockjaw. The bacteria, commonly found in soil, dust and manure, can enter wounds and produce a toxin which causes painful muscular contractions and spasms. About 1 in 50 patients die. The very young and the elderly are most at risk.

Common reactions to the tetanus vaccine include fever and local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. Sometimes extensive swelling of the limb can occur, but this resolves completely within a few days. Read more.

Highly contagious and caused by the varicella-zoster virus and causes low-grade fever and fluid filled spots. Reactivation of the virus in later life causes shingles. One in 100,000 patients develop encephalitis (brain inflammation). It can result in congenital malformations in newborns. Infection in the mother around birth results in severe infection in the baby in up to a third of cases.

Common reactions to the chickenpox vaccine include local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. The development of a non-infectious rash may occur. Serious side effects (such as severe allergic reactions) are rare. Read more.

VacciDate

Download the free VacciDate App.