The Facts Behind Vaccine Safety

While there have been a few highly publicized people who've made false claims about vaccines, decades of research from hundreds of medical, government and nonprofit organizations around the world have proven time and time again that vaccines are safe and effective.

Creating a vaccine is a very complex and highly regulated process. This process is supported by all major health organizations, including the New York State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others.

Vaccines typically take 10 to 15 years of research (historyofvaccines.org), development and testing before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and made available to the public. One exception to this time frame is the flu vaccine. The reason for this is that the manufacturing process for the flu vaccine remains unchanged. The only thing that changes each year is the antigen. Founded on ongoing virus tracking around the world, scientists determine which flu viruses are most likely to circulate during the next flu season. Once the viruses are identified, scientists change the antigen in the vaccine but keep everything else the same. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia provides a comprehensive explanation on how vaccines are developed (historyofvaccines.org) and rigorously validated (cdc.gov). If you're a parent with questions about the process, the AAP offers information specific to childhood vaccines (aap.org). For an interactive exploration of how vaccines play an integral part of our lives, as well as an in-depth look into vaccine science, visit the History of Vaccines (cdc.gov).

Credible scientists continue to assure us, through sound research, that vaccines are safe. At the end of the day, rely on sound science to inform your opinions about vaccines and your decision to get immunized. Simply put, there is no reliable proof that shows vaccines are unsafe, but there are hundreds of studies that prove vaccines save lives and are not linked to long-term side effects. Vaccines have already helped eradicate smallpox and have greatly reduced the number of other infectious diseases, including measles and pertussis. To find out more about the safety of various vaccines, as well as who licenses, recommends and requires vaccines, visit the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center.

The choice not to immunize can have severe consequences not only for your immediate loved ones, but for the public health at large. Just consider the recent outbreaks of life-threatening diseases that have occurred because people have delayed or skipped vaccinations.

For example, in 2009, an 11-year-old boy traveling from England caused what was reported as the largest mumps outbreak in years when he attended a summer camp in Sullivan County, New York. As a result, 303 people were infected within a year of the initial outbreak, and the disease spread to Brooklyn, New Jersey and Orange County in upstate New York. This is just one of many examples of how a disease can spread if you're not vaccinated and come into contact with an individual who does have the disease.