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Report: Vaccines generally safe, some side effects

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Vaccines can cause certain side effects but

serious ones appear very rare – and there’s no link with autism and

Type 1 diabetes, the Institute of Medicine says in the first

comprehensive safety review in 17 years.

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The report released Thursday isn’t aimed at nervous parents. And

the side effects it lists as proven are some that doctors long have

known about, such as fever-caused seizures and occasional brain

inflammation.

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Instead, the review comes at the request of the government’s

Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which as the name implies,

pays damages to people who are injured by vaccines. Federal law

requires this type of independent review as officials update side

effects on that list to be sure they agree with the latest

science.

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“Vaccines are important tools in preventing serious infectious

disease across the lifespan, from infancy through adulthood. All

health care interventions, however, carry the possibility of risk

and vaccines are no exception,” said pediatrician and bioethicist

Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University, who chaired the

institute panel.

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Still, the report stresses that vaccines generally are safe, and it

may help doctors address worries from a small but vocal

anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including

measles, are on the rise.

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“I am hopeful that it will allay some people’s concerns,” Clayton

said.

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The review echoed numerous other scientific reports that dismiss an

autism link.

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But it found convincing evidence of 14 side effects:

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-Fever-triggered seizures, which seldom cause long-term

consequences, from the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR,

vaccine.

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-MMR also can cause a rare form of brain inflammation in some

people with immune problems.

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-The varicella vaccine against chickenpox sometimes triggers that

viral infection, resulting in widespread chickenpox or a painful

relative called shingles. It also occasionally can lead to

pneumonia, hepatitis or meningitis.

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-Six vaccines – MMR and the chickenpox, hepatitis B, meningococcal

and tetanus-containing vaccines – can cause severe allergic

reactions known as anaphylaxis.

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-Vaccines in general sometimes trigger fainting or a type of

shoulder inflammation.

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There’s suggestive evidence but not proof of a few other side

effects, including anaphylaxis from the human papillomavirus, or

HPV, vaccine and short-term joint pain in some women and children

from the MMR vaccine.

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On the other hand, the report cleared flu shots of blame for two

long-suspected side effects: Bell’s palsy and worsening of

asthma.

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That doesn’t mean there aren’t other side effects – the review

couldn’t find enough evidence to decide about more than 100 other

possibilities. Some vaccines are just too new to link to something

really rare. Another example: Flu shots have long come with a

caution about rare, paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome, but Clayton

said research hasn’t settled if that’s a coincidence since the

disorder is more common during the winter.

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The Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the

vaccine compensation program, is reviewing the report but said it’s

too early to predict if it will prompt changes to the injury

list.

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