Vaccines are Very Safe
Dr. Jay L. Wile, Ph.D. *
In order to try to get you to refuse vaccination, the anti-vaccination propagandists will often try to
convince you that vaccines are unsafe. They will tell you that vaccines cause debilitating disease
and sickness. However, such claims ignore the medical literature, which says something quite
different. Before I tell you how we know that vaccines are safe, let me spend a moment
discussing what "safe" means in terms of medical science.
Would you consider taking a bath to be safe? Did you know that roughly 350 people die every
year because of taking baths1
so many people die every year taking baths, why do we continue this "dangerous" practice? We
continue it because it is significantly more dangerous to not take baths than to take baths. If you
decide to stop taking baths due to the alarming statistic quoted above, you are opening yourself
up to all kinds of diseases. Thus, even though it is possible for you to die taking a bath, the
benefits of taking that bath far outweigh the risks. As a result, we continue to take baths, despite
the fact that some people die from it every year.
That's exactly the kind of reasoning used to determine what is medically safe. Virtually
medicine and activity comes with risks. Even vitamins can cause liver damage,
bleeding problems, heart injury, and bone problems, especially when taken in high doses.2
Thus, no matter what you do, you
take risks. The question when evaluating any medical procedure is simply this: Do you risk more
by refusing the medical procedure than by accepting the procedure? In the case of vaccinations,
the medical research is quite clear. You are significantly more at risk if you refuse the standard
vaccinations than if you get them.
How can I state this so definitively? All you have to do is look at the data
that has been
collected on this point, and it is quite clear. First, we know that over the past several years, the
vaccination rate has increased in the United States. During this same time period, children in the
United States have become significantly more healthy. Consider the following data3
Note from the graph on the left that as the vaccination rate went up, the general health of children
also increased. Note even further that when the vaccination rate declined slightly from 1998-
2000, the general health of children declined slightly as well. Now look at the graph on the right.
As the vaccination rate increased, the infant mortality rate, child mortality rate, and preadolescent
mortality rate decreased. Note further that the most significant reductions in mortality rates
occurred when the vaccination rate was increasing the fastest, and that as the vaccination rate dropped
from 1998-2000, the decline in mortality rates leveled off substantially.
Now do these graphs prove that vaccines are safe? Of course not. There are many
factors that contribute to health and mortality, and there is no way from this study to conclude
whether the increase in vaccination rates actually caused
the increase in children's health
and the decrease in mortality rates. However, this graph presents a huge problem to anyone who
wants to claim that vaccines are dangerous. If vaccines are so dangerous, why are children
becoming healthier while the vaccination rate is increasing?
Of course, the only way to make a strong scientific conclusion when it comes to medicine is to
do controlled studies. Many such studies have been done, and the conclusions are that
vaccinated children are healthier
than non-vaccinated children. For example, one study
looked at 496 vaccinated and unvaccinated children, comparing the health of the vaccinated
children to that of the unvaccinated children. It found that children who received immunizations
against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hib, and polio within the first 3 months of life had fewer
infections than those who did not. Surprisingly enough, even the rates of infections unrelated to
the vaccines were lower in the vaccinated group than in the unvaccinated group.4
Several other studies5-7
reach similar conclusions. These studies
clearly show us that the risk of not vaccinating is higher than that of vaccinating, because
unvaccinated children are sicker than vaccinated children. You can choose to ignore such
studies, but you do so at your family's risk!
The other way we can see how risky it is to not vaccinate people is to observe what happens
when vaccination rates go down. For example, in 1975, Japan imposed a moratorium on the use
of the pertussis vaccine, due in part to hysterical anti-vaccination propagandists. As a result, the
vaccination rate dropped significantly. In the three years before the moratorium, there were 400
cases of pertussis and 10 associated deaths. In the three years following the moratorium, there
were 13,000 cases
(33.5 TIMES as many cases) of pertussis and 113 associated
(11.3 TIMES as many deaths). Of those that didn't die, more than 200 experienced
convulsions and about 15 have permanent brain damage. Due to these alarming statistics, the
government started promoting vaccination again, and vaccination rates increased dramatically. As a result, pertussis rates
went back to their pre-moratorium levels.8
That's the risk associated with not vaccinating - innocent children die
or suffer permanent injury.
This kind of tragedy occurs in the United States as well. Between 1990 and 1991, there was a
measles outbreak in Philadelphia. The outbreak was traced back to a church whose members refused
immunization on religious grounds. In the outbreak, 1,600 children were infected. Of those, nine
died. Of the nine innocent children who died, seven were from that church. The other two who died were babies who lived nearby and had not yet gotten their MMR vaccination9
. Had the church not been anti-vaccination, these nine precious ones would still be alive today. If you would like to learn
more about the ravages induced on innocent children by the anti-vaccination movement, please
see our discussion entitled, Small Decision, Large Impact: Why Not Vaccinating Your Child Is Dangerous
or Individuals Who Have Suffered or Died Because They Were Not
Before I end this discussion, I must spend a moment discussing the contents of vaccines. Anti-
vaccination propagandists will often list the contents of vaccines in order to try to scare you.
Many of the contents of vaccines sound scary, and some (like mercury) are even known to cause biological
harm in certain situations
. As a result, the anti-vaccination propagandists
will tell you that vaccines contain poisons. Of course, if this were true, the studies I listed above
(references 4-7) would have reached radically different conclusions. If vaccines were toxic, then vaccinated children would not be healthier than unvaccinated children! Nevertheless, the studies demonstrate that they are.
How can a vaccine containing things like mercury be safe? The answer is quite simple, and
anyone with a modicum of training in chemistry should know this. Whether or not a substance is
toxic to the body depends on its concentration
. Substances like mercury are toxic only if
they reach a high enough concentration. It is important to note that even things we think of as
"healthy" are also toxic at high enough concentration. For example, if you take too many
vitamins, you risk damaging your health (see reference 2). Thus, the concentration of a substance
is instrumental in determining whether or not it is a poison.
At the concentrations found in vaccines, mercury (and other supposed "toxins") are not toxic.
How do we know that these substances are not toxic at the levels found in vaccines? Because
study after study has demonstrated this. First of all, in order to get licensed vaccines must undergo a long-term,
rigorous approval process that includes animal studies and controlled studies on volunteers.
These controlled studies are specifically designed to look for maladies that might arise from any
of the additives in the vaccines. Secondly, follow up studies
being done to monitor vaccine safety. Finally, the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System
(VAERS) investigates all reported cases of what appear to be reactions to a vaccination. As a
result, we have a wealth of data regarding the effects of vaccines, and the data continually point
to the fact that it is much more risky to refuse the standard vaccinations than to accept them.
1. Budnick, L.D., and Ross, D.A., "Bathtub-related drownings in the
United States, 1979-1981." American Journal of Public Health
, 75: 630-633, 1985. Return to Text
2. Illnesses and Injuries Associated With the Use of Selected Dietary
Supplements, U. S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied
Nutrition, 1993 (Available online
) Return to
3. America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2002
"General Health" is given as the percentage of children (Age 0-18) in very good or excellent
"Infant Mortality" is the number of deaths of children under 1 year of age per 7,500.
"Child Mortality" is the number of deaths of children age 1-4 per 150,00.
"Preadolescent Mortality" is the number of deaths of children age 5-14 per 300,000.
Return to Text
4. Otto S, et al. "General non-specific morbidity is reduced after
vaccination within the third month of life-the Greifswald study." J Infect.
2000. Return to Text
5. Black SB, et al. "Apparent decreased risk of invasive bacterial disease
after heterologous childhood immunization." Am J Dis Child.
145:746-749, 1991. Return to Text
6. Davidson M, , et al. "DTP immunization and susceptibility to infectious diseases. Is there a
relationship?" Am J Dis Child.
, 145:750-754, 1991. Return to
7. Essery SD, et al. "The protective effect of immunisation against diphtheria, pertussis and
tetanus (DPT) in relation to sudden infant death syndrome" FEMS Immunol Med
, 25:1-2, 183-92, 1999. Return to Text
8. Gangarosa, AM, et al. "Impact of Anti-Vaccine Movements on
Pertussis Control: The Untold Story" Lancet
1998; 351(9099) 356-361. Return to Text
9. Anita Manning, "To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: Parents worry
about safety-which worries health officials," USA Today
, July 17, 2000. Return to Text
Dr. Wile is not a medical doctor. He is a nuclear
chemist. As a result, he does not dispense medical advice. He simply educates the public about
scientific issues. Please consult a board-certified medical doctor before making any medical
decisions for yourself or your family. Return to Text