Vaccination Protects Children from Allergies Later in Life

One of the innumerable complaints made about vaccination is that it “stresses the immune system,” and that this can lead to immune-system diseases, including allergies. Dr. Crislip at Science-based Medicine has already dealt with the notion of immune system overload, pointing out that our immune system is exposed to as many antigens in about a month of daily life as it is in the entire recommended childhood vaccination regime. Yet vaccine opponents continue to blame all sorts of health problems on damage to the immune system from vaccinations, including allergic diseases. A recent study in children challenges that claim.

Herbarth, O. World Allergy Organization International Scientific Conference (WISC) and Congress of the Brazilian Association of Allergy and Immunology. Abstract 1014. Presented December 7, 2014.

The study looked at about 2,200 children. In every group studies, including those considered at increased risk for allergies due to having parents with allergic disease, vaccinated children had LOWER rates of allergies than unvaccinated children.

As always, a single study is never the last word on any subject. And a small study in human children doesn’t rule out the possibility of some link between vaccination and allergies in dogs and cats. But in addressing concerns about potential adverse effects of vaccination, it is important we be guided by evidence, not mere theory or fear. There is now at least some evidence that vaccination not only doesn’t increase allergy risk but that it may be protective against allergies. Those who believe otherwise should bear the burden of providing evidence for their claims.

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8 Responses to Vaccination Protects Children from Allergies Later in Life

  1. Beccy Higman says:

    Very interesting. I guess (and I use the word precisely) that this may be related to the work showing that some allergies can be improved by exposure to carefully selected micro-organisms. Part of the reason I’m guessing is I saw the reports in a documentary and as is the way with them there were some dramatic examples – a child whose psoriasis was virtually cured and another whose asthma was also virually cured by the oral administration of a ‘carefully tailored cocktail of bacteria. The idea proposed was that with too few external challenges the immune system turns on the body. I know that I’ve also read about ulcerative colitis being cured with tapeworms for the same reason. As I say interesting.

  2. skeptvet says:

    Exactly. Dr. Paul Offit, one of the staunch defenders of vaccination, is also a firm believer in the Hygiene Hypothesis, and he relates that to this effect. The immune system evolved under conditions of constant stimulus and levels of exposure to infectious organisms and parasites greater than many in the first world have today. The improved hygiene has had undeniable and quite impressive benefits, in terms of the dramatic reduction in death of children by infectious disease. But it may have some unintended consequences as well, and it will be interesting to see how further study of that plays out and what sorts of interventions we might come up with to address it.

  3. rita says:

    And it would be in line with the idea of introducing a wide variety of foods into the infant diet rather than treating e.g. peanuts as potentially “dangerous” and holding back on them until later? From Science Based medicine, if I remember rightly?

  4. skeptvet says:

    My daughter was born about a month before my best friend’s son, and we took somewhat different approaches to this issue. I remember once she asked me, “What new food did you introduce this week?” I answered, “Thai food.” So far, no allergies. 🙂

  5. linda says:

    Until a study comparing allergies in humans versus dogs and cats is based on the same frequency of vaccination administration as well as dosage relative to weight, the conclusion in this article is misleading.

  6. skeptvet says:

    I disagree that this article is misleading. It is certainly not definitive evidence, of course. No single study ever is, and there is always uncertainty in extrapolating across species. However, the point was not to declare the case closed but to point out that not only is there not good evidence to suggest vaccines cause allergies, there is actually some evidence to suggest they may prevent them. This is simply one piece of a larger picture.

    Also, the notion that vaccines should b dosed by weight is a fundamental misconception about how immunization works. Medications are dose by weight because their effects are often proportional to their concentration in the body. As a useful simile, drugs work like a dimmer switch on a light. The brightness is proportional to how far you push the switch.

    A protective immune response, however, does not vary directly with dose. A minimum threshold level of antigen must be present to trigger the response, otherwise there is no response at all. Once this threshold amount is reached, more antigen does not stimulate a greater response. Again, a useful comparison is that vaccines work like a standard light switch. The light is either all on or all off, and brightness does not depend on how far you push the switch. This is why the concern about different doses of vaccines for dogs of different sizes is generally not justified.

  7. Jan says:

    Says Dr Crislip (your hero, presumably): “our immune system is exposed to as many antigens in a month of daily life as it is in the entire recommended childhood vaccination regime”.

    So, are these antigens, to which we are all exposed, being injected into our systemic circulation as we go about our daily lives, in the same way vaccs get administered?

    No comment from your hero about how much good it does for our bodies to have injected all the other chemicals contained in vaccinations?

  8. skeptvet says:

    All the antigens we are exposed to in ordinary life come through a variety of routes, including by “injection.” If you’ve every had a paper cut, poked yourself with a sewing needle, been stung by a bee, etc., then you’ve had exposure to antigens by the same route as vaccination.

    As for “all the other chemicals,” there’s an enormous body of evidence showing that vaccines are very safe and most of the worries about specific ingredients are unjustified. Unfortunately, there’s also plenty of evidence that opponents to vaccines are resistant to facts and evidence.

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