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Do vaccines cause asthma, allergies or other chronic diseases?

Philadelphia, Pa -- Large scientific studies do not support claims that vaccines may cause chronic diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic arthritis and diabetes, according to a report in the March 2003 issue of Pediatrics. The report's lead author, Paul A. Offit, M.D.., chief of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, identifies flaws in proposed biological explanations for how vaccines cause chronic diseases and reviews current research on associations between vaccines and those diseases.

"Anecdotal reports and uncontrolled studies have proposed that vaccines may cause particular allergic or autoimmune diseases," says Dr. Offit. "Such reports have led some parents to delay or withhold vaccinations for their children. This is very unfortunate, because the best available scientific evidence does not support the idea that vaccines cause chronic diseases. Scientific studies have shown, however, that reducing vaccination rates lead to increases in preventable infectious diseases."

In the article, co-authored by Charles J. Hackett, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Offit critically analyzes proposed explanations for a link between vaccines and chronic diseases, such as the "hygiene hypothesis." The hygiene hypothesis states that improved hygiene and decreased early exposure to common childhood infections may actually raise a child's risk of developing allergies. Several studies support this hypothesis, says Dr. Offit, such as findings that children who attend childcare or live in large families are less likely to have allergies.

However, adds Dr. Offit, the hygiene hypothesis does not fit vaccine-related diseases. Vaccines do not prevent most common childhood infections, such as upper and lower respiratory tract infections, that form the basis of the hygiene hypothesis. On the other hand, vaccine-preventable inf
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Contact: Erin McDermott
McDermotte@email.chop.edu
215-590-7429
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
3-Mar-2003


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