The IOM released a report this week regarding the safety of the American vaccination schedule. Their conclusion? No new methods of safety research need to be undertaken. The current safety surveillance systems that we have in place are adequate, although they could be improved upon. Undertaking a large study comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated children is neither ethical nor necessary. The vaccine schedule is safe as it is.
A few years ago we all got excited when the Centers for Disease Control announced they were looking into doing more extensive vaccine safety research. Essentially, they were going to research whether or not they should and could do such research. The CDC assigned this task to the Institute of Medicine, a panel of medical experts from various medical and research backgrounds, and this report is the product of this investigation.
Here are my thoughts/disappointments/criticisms of the IOM report:
1. The IOM did not do any NEW research in this report. They did nothing new to examine and conclude that the current vaccine schedule is safe, or that it is safer than an alternative one. What they simply did was examine current available research and determine that there is no evidence that the current schedule is unsafe. There is no NEW information or research findings here.
2. The IOM admits on page 3 of their summary press release that a study comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated children is “the strongest study design type”. Basically, such a study would give us the most useful information.
3. The IOM and the CDC continue to hide behind the claim that to do a comparative study of unvaccinated versus vaccinated children would be unethical. But as long as they neglect to do this research, many parents will continue to decline vaccines over the concern about lack of safety research.
4. The IOM states that one challenge of an unvaccinated study is that there is an inadequate number of study subjects, as less than 1% of children are completely unvaccinated. I don’t agree with this statistic. It’s more like 5%, and could even be 10%. One brand new international study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22943300) revealed that 10% of households surveyed had children who were completely unvaccinated. 10%!!! And it was the more educated and wealthier families that were more likely to be unvaccinated. The IOM’s claim that there aren’t enough unvaccinated children to study simply isn’t true. With over 4 million babies being born in the U.S. every year, they would have their pick of about 400,000 unvaccinated children to study each year.
The end result of this IOM report is that nothing has changed. Worried parents don’t have any new research or information to consider. The CDC has declared loud and clear that they won’t begin any new research on vaccine safety, especially involving a comparative unvaccinated control group. The debate over vaccine safety will continue on.
The IOM report can be downloaded from this link: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/The-Childhood-Immunization-Schedule-and-Safety.aspx
by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland J.D.
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