Safety of Childhood Vaccinations

There is a great deal of concern amongst the general public, particularly parents, about the safety of childhood vaccines. This has resulted in a number of media scandals and a range of conflicting reports that can be quite confusing. This article looks at the safety of commonly used childhood vaccinations.

Why are there safety concerns about childhood vaccinations?

Parents worry about their children’s safety when it comes to practically anything, and so it’s no surprise that many parents are concerned about the safety of vaccinations. A vaccine is, after all, some form of an infectious agent, albeit specially treated to safely induce a child’s natural defences without causing any serious illness or disease.

The fact that a vaccine is prepared from viruses and bacteria known to cause serious illnesses can be a concern for many parents. For others the issue is whether or not their child will suffer significant side effects, or the risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine itself. These are all valid points, and in this article they are addressed to hopefully put your mind at ease.

Why are there concerns about the potential side effects of childhood vaccinations?

Some babies do exhibit some mild side effects after a vaccination, and these can cause some parents to worry. These side effects are usually signs of the body’s defences, the immune system, preparing to deal with the infectious agent. In fact a lot of the symptoms we see during illness are a consequence of our immune system responding to the presence of an infectious agent, and a great example is inflammation, which works to seal off a site of infection and prevent it from spreading.

Typical side effects observed after children are given some vaccines are some redness or swelling around the site of injection and a mild fever. These are not a cause for concern in the vast majority of cases, and are just a consequence of the body’s response to the vaccine. This fever is easily treated with a small dose of paracetamol, but you should never administer a painkiller before the vaccination itself.

Allergies to childhood vaccinations

While it is extremely rare, there is a small chance that a child might be allergic to a particular vaccination. This is a worry for some parents, but you should rest assured that even if your child does have an allergic response to the vaccine it is completely treatable.

Most allergies will present themselves as a rash or itching sensation which the doctor or nurse administering the vaccine will be aware of. In some extremely rare cases a more severe reaction occurs and a child will suffer breathing difficulties, and the chances of such a severe reaction are one in a million. Even if this does happen, the practitioner giving the vaccine will be watching out for any signs of such a reaction and administer treatment immediately if it does occur.

So are childhood vaccinations safe?

Despite the considerations mentioned thus far in this article, vaccinations given to children of all ages are known and proven to be perfectly safe. They would not have gained approval for widespread use throughout the country, and indeed the world as a whole, without careful study into their effects.

All new medications and vaccines are subject to rigorous testing to ensure their safety before widespread use. These investigations persist after the vaccine has entered public use to make sure that any adverse effects are understood and documented. An independent authority called The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is responsible for keeping an eye on existing and developing vaccines to ensure that there are no serious risks or dangers involved in their use. This organisation does so through the Yellow Card Scheme which ensures that any and all adverse effects caused by a particular vaccine are quickly reported and studied.

The risks mentioned thus far in this article affect an extremely small number of people every year, and NHS staff are well prepared to deal with any potential side effects or allergic reactions in the rare event that they do occur.

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