Childhood vaccines: Tough questions, straight answersDo vaccines cause autism? Is it OK to skip certain vaccines? Get the facts on these and other common questions.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Childhood vaccines protect children from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus and whooping cough. If these diseases seem uncommon — or even unheard of — it's usually because these vaccines are doing their job.
Still, you may wonder about the benefits and risks of childhood vaccines. Here are straight answers to common questions about childhood vaccines.
Is natural immunity better than vaccination?
A natural infection often provides more complete immunity than a series of vaccinations — but there's a price to pay for natural immunity. For example, a natural chickenpox (varicella) infection could lead to pneumonia. A natural polio infection could cause permanent paralysis. A natural mumps infection could lead to deafness. A natural Hib infection could result in permanent brain damage. Vaccination can help prevent these diseases and their potentially serious complications.
Do vaccines cause autism?
Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven't found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.
Although signs of autism may appear at about the same time children receive certain vaccines — such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine — this is simply a coincidence.
March 08, 2013
See more In-depth
- Berkowitz CD. Berkowitz's Pediatrics: A Primary Care Approach. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2012:179.
- Vaccines & Immunizations: Possible side-effects from vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- For parents: Infant immunizations FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/parent-questions.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Bedford HE, et al. MMR vaccine and autism. BMJ. 2010;340:c655.
- Freed GL, et al. Parental vaccine safety concerns in 2009. Pediatrics. 2010;125:654.
- Chickenpox (varicella) complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/complications.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Polio disease in-short. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/in-short-both.htm. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Hib: Fact sheet for parents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hib/fs-parents.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Complications of mumps. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/about/complications.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Fisher MC. Immunizations & Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide. Washington, D.C.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2006:19.
- Gust DA, et al. Parents with doubts about vaccines: Which vaccines and reasons why. Pediatrics. 2008;122:718.
- Poland GA, et al. The clinician's guide to the anti-vaccinationists' galaxy. Human Immunology. 2012;73:859.
- Haly CM, et al. How to communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents. Pediatrics. 2011;127(Suppl 1):S127.
- The childhood immunization schedule and safety. Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/The-Childhood-Immunization-Schedule-and-Safety.aspx. Accessed Jan. 21, 2013.