The information contained in our Frequently Asked Questions section of this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical or legal advice. Those seeking medical or legal advice should obtain the services of a competent attorney, physician or qualified health care professional. The National Vaccine Information Center encourages all visitors to this website to gather additional information on diseases and vaccines and consult one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination or other health care decision. Please click on a topic below to expand the topic and learn more; click on it again to close the topic.
If I adopt a baby from a country outside the United States, will the vaccine exemptions I have applied for in my state be honored? - There are legal considerations with regard to vaccination exemptions when adopting a child. Today in the U.S. many adopted children are adopted from foreign countries and brought back to the U.S. In those instances there may be vaccination requirements imposed by the country the child is adopted from and efforts to acquire reliable written records accepted by the U.S. could prevent over or revaccination.
Additionally, the U.S. imposes vaccination requirements on incoming adopted children. According to the U.S. State Department, Section 212(a)(1)(A)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires that any person, who seeks admission as an immigrant, or who seeks adjustment of status to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, must present documentation of having received vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases, which shall include at least the following diseases: mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza type B and hepatitis B, and any other vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. This section exempts adopted children from the vaccination requirement if the child
- is 10 years of age or younger;
- is described in section 101(b)(1)(F) , and
- is seeking an immigrant visa as an immediate relative under section 201(b),
Provided that the adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent of the child, prior to the admission of the child, executes an affidavit stating that the parent is aware of the provisions of subparagraph (A)(ii) and will ensure that, within 30 days of the child's admission, or at the earliest time that is medically appropriate, the child will receive the vaccinations identified in such subparagraph.
To determine if other vaccination exemptions are available for children adopted from foreign countries, it is recommended that prospective adoptive parents obtain legal counsel. For adoption of U.S. children by U.S. citizens, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel to determine how federal and state vaccine requirements and exemption provisions apply to adopted children and to determine the rights of the prospective adoptive parents.
Can NVIC help me find an attorney specializing in vaccine laws and exemptions? - There are a number of attorneys and law firms specializing in bringing vaccine injury claims before the U.S. Court of Claims under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. However, it is difficult to find a lawyer who will assist parents in filing or defending a medical, religious or conscientious belief exemption to state vaccine laws.
The federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) no longer provides a list of attorneys that handle vaccine injury claims on their website. However, the VICP will furnish an attorney list, if requested. To obtain this list, contact Clerk, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, 717 Madison Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20005, or call (202) 357-6400. The VICP also states that this information may be available from state and/or local bar associations.
When deciding on legal representation, consider the experience, success and whether or not the attorney is recognized by the VICP. If you are unsuccessful finding an attorney to represent you, you could also try the pro-bono clinic at George Washington University – please note that students serve as the attorney (with supervision). Close Topic
Do vaccines cause autism? - The debate about whether vaccines can cause regressive autism began in 1985 with the publishing of the landmark book DPT: A Shot in the Dark by Harris Coulter and Barbara Loe Fisher. Among the more than 100 cases of DPT vaccine induced brain inflammation and immune system dysfunction detailed in the book were children who had developed regressive autism after suffering a brain inflammation and encephalopathy following DPT vaccination.
When Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which created a federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), the first awards for vaccine injury and death were given to children who had suffered a brain inflammation/encephalopathy after DPT vaccination and died or were left with a variety of brain and immune system problems such as medication resistant seizures, mental retardation, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD and other developmental delays. Since then, federal compensation has been awarded to children who developed brain inflammation/encephalopathy after DPT or DTaP vaccination and whose permanent disabilities include autistic behaviors. (In 2008, the federal government conceded that a girl who had received multiple vaccines on one day and regressed into autism was entitled to compensation for her injuries.)
In 1990, NVIC was contacted by California mother, Cindy Goldenberg, who explained how her bright healthy son became autistic following his MMR vaccine. Following many visits to different doctors in her attempt to find out what had happened to her son, multiple tests were performed to evaluate his immune function and revealed a high antibody count to rubella vaccine. After conducting research into the connection between rubella infection and autism, she contacted an immunologist and they put together a biomedical protocol to address his immune dysfunction which resulted in her son recovering from autism.
Since 1990, a growing number of physicians have acknowledged that development of regressive autism has multi-factorial causes and that there are many questions yet to be answered about the biological causes for and prevention and treatment of autism. What has become clear since the autism-vaccine connection was first reported in 1985 is that many children with regressive autism are getting better from biomedical and holistic health approaches to healing brain and immune system dysfunction. There are a number of autism support groups which have been founded by parents since the late 1990's, which are dedicated to helping families with children with autism.
If you suspect that your child's autism or developmental delays are related to a vaccine or combination of vaccines, it is very important that you report a vaccine reaction to NVIC's Vaccine Reaction Registry which NVIC has operated since 1982. Information about vaccine reactions can help discover why some children develop health problems following vaccination and others do not.
A report should also be made to the federal government's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The law requires doctor's to report any serious problem within 30 days following vaccination. If your doctor refuses to report, NVIC can provide the forms for you to report the reaction yourself.
Children with autism have educational, behavior and medical challenges that may be modified or eliminated with individualized interventions. It is important to consult qualified health care professionals familiar with regressive autism and vaccines. Autism groups providing information about regressive autism can be found on our resources page.
You may want to post your child's story of regression after vaccination at NVIC's International Memorial for Vaccine Victims website. Personal stories are very important and can help others learn more about vaccine reactions. Close Topic
My spouse and I decided not to vaccinate our child. We have now decided to divorce and my spouse wants to vaccinate our child. What can I do? Can the court require that I vaccinate our child? - This is a difficult situation and qualified legal counsel is needed to assist in resolving the dispute. In general, it is best if both parties can negotiate a reasonable vaccination plan, which recognizes potential risks to the child's health and respects both parents concerns and personal beliefs. NVIC does not provide testimony or documents in custody or divorce proceedings.
For children, who have previously experienced vaccine reactions and have a medical waiver on file, it is very important to work with a qualified and trusted health care professional who can help determine what course of action should be taken. If, however, children were previously unvaccinated due to deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs or for reasons of conscience, it will be important for the parents to respectfully negotiate vaccination decisions for their children. Close Topic
I was told that if I did not get all of my child’s vaccines according to the schedule that I would have to find a new pediatrician. Is this legal? - NVIC is contacted every day by parents who, for various reasons, want to vaccinate their children using a vaccination schedule that does not conform to the vaccination schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Many are being told by their pediatricians to either find a new pediatrician or to sign a “refusal to vaccinate” form (NVIC does not advise signing the form. It will become a part of the legal record and is not required by law).
Pediatricians differ on whether this is an appropriate response to parents. Some feel that it is better to keep in their practice parents who have questions about vaccines and want to make vaccine decisions that do not conform to AAP and CDC recommendations. Other pediatricians have a "zero-tolerance" policy for non-compliance.
Although throwing a family out of a pediatric practice may be legal, it raises serious ethical and medical questions that contribute to parental fear and distrust of pediatricians. Parents faced with these situations will need to find a pediatrician, family practice physician or other qualified health professional who respects their right to become vaccine educated and make voluntary vaccination decisions.
Parents should understand that not all pediatricians believe that strict adherence to the CDC recommended vaccination schedule is in the child's best interest. Even so, it can be very difficult to find pediatricians who are willing to be flexible and work with parents because there is strong peer pressure among doctors to conform to policy promoted by medical organizations, such as the AAP and AMA, and government health officials.
In addition to finding a new pediatrician, NVIC encourages parents who have been kicked out of a pediatric practice to file a Harassment Report with NVIC.
If I don't want to follow the CDC recommended vaccination schedule, what schedule does NVIC recommend? - NVIC does not recommend use, or non-use, of any particular vaccination schedule. NVIC does not give medical or legal advice. Parents, who have concerns about the administration of multiple vaccines given to children on a single day and who want to continue to vaccinate can become informed and choose an alternative schedule. Some parents decide which vaccines they want their children to have and then figure out when they want their child to receive certain vaccines.
Some parents decide to give only one vaccine at a time and lengthen the time between giving vaccines from two to four or more months. Others decide to get their children tested for antibody titers to see if they need additional vaccines to achieve antibody levels that are considered to be indicative of "being immune." There are a number of books and Internet sites that recommend various alternate vaccination schedules. NVIC does not monitor or comment on the safety or efficacy of particular vaccination schedules.
Where can I get good information about vaccines so that I can make decisions for myself and family? - If you are asking these questions, you are on the right track. NVIC encourages all health care consumers to do their own research and engage in fully informed decision-making whenever considering a medical intervention or use of pharmaceutical products, including vaccines.
There is a large amount of information on NVIC's website including a list of resources containing websites, books, videos and other information on infectious diseases and vaccines. It is important to review information from many different perspectives, including visiting government-operated websites like the Centers for Disease Control and vaccine-promoting organizations and pharmaceutical company websites like the Immunization Action Coalition to fully understand all views about vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The key is to learn about the benefits and complications of both infectious diseases and vaccines and, after consultation with one or more trusted health care professionals and in consideration of vaccine contraindications and your child's personal and family medical histories, decide which course of action is most appropriate.
I don't want to give vaccines so close together. What is the minimum time interval between vaccinations? - There are some vaccines which should not be given together and there are recommended minimum time periods for intervals between vaccinations. For each of the vaccines, you can consult the CDC's recommended schedule and the manufacturer product inserts to learn about official recommendations for time periods between vaccinations.
Some people choose to wait for two to four months or more between vaccinations. Using all available information and/or working with a trusted health care professional, you may want to develop a tailored vaccination schedule that you are comfortable using.
My employer is requesting that I undergo a TB (tuberculosis) test and I do not want to do this. What are my options? - Because the TB test isn't a vaccine, per se, this concern is something that we do not routinely address. We are aware, however, that some employers and educational institutions will accept negative chest x-ray tests as evidence of TB status. Additionally, some states such as New Jersey have exemption forms specifically for TB testing concerns.Close Topic
I am pregnant and having my baby in a hospital. My pediatrician has told me that that my newborn must receive a hepatitis B vaccination shortly after birth before being discharged from the hospital. Do I have the right to take my baby home without a hepatitis B shot? - In 1991, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all newborns be given a hepatitis B shot within 12 hours of birth. Newborns are not at risk for hepatitis B infection unless they are born to a mother infected with the hepatitis B virus or are given a blood transfusion that is contaminated with hepatitis B. The CDC’s 1991 universal use recommendation for newborns was based on a fear by public health officials that all hepatitis B infected women in the U.S. were not being screened and identified before giving birth. Below is information helpful in addressing concerns regarding hepatitis B vaccine and newborns.
- State Vaccine Laws Do Not Apply to Hospitals - State public health laws, which require certain vaccinations in order for your child to be able to go to school, do notapply to private hospitals or birthing centers. However, private medical facilities may have their own internal policies in place, which direct staff to routinely give newborn infants a hepatitis b shot before discharge. Private hospitals and birthing facilities have a legal right to refuse to allow you to give birth in their medical facility if you do not agree to abide by their policies in advance.
- You Can Be Tested for Hepatitis B - You may want to get a blood test to find out whether or not you are infected with hepatitis B and, if you test negative, you can bring the negative test results with you to the hospital or birthing facility you have chosen and request in writing that your newborn not receive a hepatitis B shot at birth. If the birthing facility agrees, make sure that your written birthing plan and newborn care plan includes the understanding by staff that no hepatitis B vaccine will be given to your newborn before discharge.
- Evaluate Your Birthing Options - If you do not want your newborn to get a hepatitis b shot at birth, you should immediately evaluate the birthing options you have in terms of where your baby will be born. Find out if the hospital or birthing center you have chosen routinely gives newborn infants hepatitis B shots. Newborn vaccination policies may be hard to find because it is often included under “Standard of Care” language in policy manuals. Some hospitals or birthing centers may be more or less flexible about allowing exceptions to hepatitis B vaccination policies for newborns.
Many hospitals and birthing centers, as a routine matter, administer hepatitis b vaccine on the basis of what is known as "standing orders", that is that they have written orders in place from the time of admission to check you and your baby's vital signs, administer certain medications and emergency treatments, and when to contact the doctor or nurse midwife if certain circumstances arise. Pediatricians have the ability to change one or more "standing orders" for a particular baby. Routinely administered care is not necessarily the most appropriate or best care for all mothers and babies. If you would prefer that your baby not be given the hepatitis b vaccine within 12 hours of birth as recommended by the CDC, you should discuss this with your baby's pediatrician and ask that the "standing orders" for your baby be written accordingly.
Some pediatricians will agree to delay vaccination until after hospital discharge. If possible, you should ask your pediatrician for something in writing that you can photocopy and share with the hospital or birthing center at the time of admission for labor and delivery. Additionally, if you have a birthing plan, this preference should be noted in your written plan provided to the hospital or birthing center.
Make sure you bring a copy of the written agreement and a copy of the negative hepatitis B vaccine test with you to the birthing center when you are in labor. You may want to consult an attorney so that you can call the attorney if you encounter any problems with being coerced to give your newborn a hepatitis B in shot at the hospital or birthing center, where your baby is born, against your wishes.
- Keep Your Newborn With You - NVIC has received reports that newborns have been given hepatitis B vaccinations in newborn nurseries without parental consent and in violation of written requests for no vaccination. It is a good idea to keep your newborn with you at all times in the hospital, or have a have a trusted family member stay with your infant while you are napping, to ensure that your baby is not vaccinated without your knowledge or consent before discharge.
- Find a Doctor to Trust - If your pediatrician insists that your baby get a hepatitis B shot in the newborn nursery and you do not agree, you can always look for another doctor, who respects your parental right to make an informed vaccination choice for your child.
I have refused to consent to give my newborn a hepatitis B shot at birth and am being threatened that child protective services will be contacted and I will be charged with child medical neglect or child abuse if I don’t vaccinate my child. Is this legal? Am I in danger of having my child taken from me or going to jail? - NVIC receives many reports of harassment from new parents, who do not want to give their baby certain vaccines, including hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and are being bullied and threatened with charges of child medical neglect or child abuse. They are worried their child will be taken from them by state social services agencies.
There is no legal federal or state requirement in the U.S. that newborns receive a hepatitis B shot at birth. However, some individual doctors or medical workers in medical care facilities, who are ideologically committed to ensuring that every child receives every federally recommended vaccine on schedule, use threats and other types of coercion to intimidate parents into agreeing to give their baby a hepatitis B shot within 12 hours of birth. Below is information that you may find helpful if confronted with coercion.
- Find An Attorney - If you have are being threatened by anyone with charges of child medical neglect or child abuse for not giving your child a vaccine, such as hepatitis B vaccine, it is important to immediately find an attorney, who will advise you about whether or not your parental medical informed consent rights are being violated and evaluate your legal options.
- Become Educated and Make an Informed Decision - In addition to seeking legal advice, you are best able to defend your parental medical informed consent rights if you are knowledgeable about the hepatitis B infection and the vaccine. Deciding whether or not to vaccinate your newborn for hepatitis B is the first of many health care decisions you will make as a parent.
Unlike many other infectious diseases for which vaccines have been developed, hepatitis B is a blood-transmitted infection that is rare in childhood. Adults engaging in IV drug use and sex with multiple partners are at highest risk for hepatitis B infection, as are health care workers exposed to infected blood; persons requiring repeated blood transfusions and residents and staff of crowded institutions, like prisons.
However, babies born to hepatitis B infected mothers are also at risk for hepatitis B infection so it is important for all pregnant women to know if they are or are not infected with hepatitis B before they give birth. If you suspect you could be infected, it is a good idea to get a blood test before giving birth.
Learn More About Hepatitis B - To learn more, NVIC provides information here and the history of hepatitis B vaccine state school attendance mandates here. It is also important to find a health care professional you trust to discuss your concerns and answer your questions about the hepatitis B disease and the vaccine.
I am immigrating to the United States. My children have either already been vaccinated or the US is requiring vaccines that weren't previously required and I don't want to give the additional vaccines. What are my legal rights? - NVIC recognizes these concerns but is not in a position to comment on specific requirements related to immigration to the US from various countries. Those seeking to immigrate may want to get legal advice from an attorney. Immigration requirements are difficult to challenge and could pose risks to successful immigration. Many immigrants are required to get all Centers for Disease Control recommended and age-appropriate vaccines. Close Topic
What is informed consent and how does it apply to vaccination? - Informed consent has been the central ethical principle of the practice of modern medicine since the Nuremberg Code was issued by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II. Although the Nuremberg Code specifically addressed the human right for human beings to give their voluntary informed consent to participate in scientific experiments, the First Principle of the Nuremberg Code has become an ethical standard for allowing patients to give their voluntary consent to engage in medical interventions that carry a risk of harm.
The first principle of the Nuremberg Code includes the following language:
"The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent, should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision….."
This informed consent principle has been embraced by enlightened physicians, hospitals, HMO's and medical researchers to protect the right of patients and their guardians to voluntarily accept or decline medical interventions, including testing, use of prescription drugs and surgery that involve a risk of injury or death.
Vaccination is a medical intervention that carries a risk of injury or death, which is greater for some than others. Therefore, the right to voluntary, informed consent to vaccination can be considered a human right.
As your child's legal guardian, you are responsible for your child's health and well being. You have the responsibility to become fully informed about vaccines and you should have the right make voluntary choices about whether or not to risk your life or your child's life with a vaccine or any other procedure a medical doctor recommends.
If you, as a parent, are concerned that continuing vaccination would harm your child and a doctor is insisting more vaccines be given without your voluntary consent, you should contact another trusted health care professional for a second opinion. If your child has experienced health deterioration after previous vaccinations, it is important listen to your parental instincts and be totally comfortable with a vaccination decision for your child before proceeding with more vaccination.
The more educated you become about vaccines, the more empowered you will become and the better able you will be to stand up for your right to informed consent to medical risk taking. To learn more about informed consent, click here. Close Topic
What is the International Memorial for Vaccine Victims and how do I post a story? -The International Memorial for Vaccine Victims is a virtual memorial created and maintained by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) dedicated to those whose lives have been forever changed by vaccines they were often required by law to use. NVIC created the Memorial to honor individuals who have been harmed by vaccines. The Memorial also offers families around the world the opportunity to post stories and photos about what happened to their loved ones so that others can become educated about the signs and symptoms of vaccine reactions.
To search the memorial and click the “search memorial” button on the left. The Memorial can be searched by country, state, vaccine, primary reaction and last name. To post a story with or without photos, follow the directions for posting. All identifying information you provide when you register to post an entry will remain confidential. It will never be shared with third parties.
You may be contacted by NVIC which maintains the Memorial if there are any questions about the vaccine reaction you submitted for posting. NVIC will review all entries submitted for the Memorial and reserves the right to accept or decline any entry submitted for posting. Close Topic
Is it true that all the mercury has been removed from vaccines? How much mercury is in the flu shot and other recommended vaccines? Should I go out of my way to find a thimerosal-free flu shot and where can I find one? - Even though most of the vaccines routinely administered to infants in the United States no longer contain more than trace amounts of ethyl mercury in the form of Thimerosal, the entire vaccine supply is not Thimerosal-free. The most notable exception to this is the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine. Most, but not all, influenza vaccine still contains Thimerosal. Notably, many vaccines used in third world countries are mercury containing and exceed safety guidelines established in the United States.
Information on vaccines that contain significant amounts of Thimerosal can also be found on the Food and Drug Administration's website and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Institute for Vaccine Safety website.
Manufacturers began voluntarily removing Thimerosal from pediatric vaccines around 2000. It is assumed that most pediatric vaccines containing Thimerosal were “off the shelves” by 2003. (No vaccines were recalled.) Even so, most infants are still routinely given Thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine even though there are Thimerosal-free and vaccines with trace amounts of Thimerosal. Infants receiving a Thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine are dosed at 6 months with 12.5 mcg of ethyl mercury and at 7 months with an additional 12.5 mcg. Adult Thimerosal-containing vaccines contain roughly 25mcg. These Thimerosal-containing version exceed federal safety guidelines mentioned earlier.
Depending on the vaccines administered, at six months of age, infants today born to mothers who received flu vaccine during pregnancy could receive up to 71 mcg of ethyl mercury compared to 187.5 mcg prior to efforts to decrease the amount of thimerosal in infant vaccines. Additionally, the new CDC guidelines recommend that all children from 2 to 5 years of age receive an annual influenza vaccine. As a result, the total amount of thimerosal given to children under 5 years of age is almost what it was prior to 2000.
There are other sources of mercury exposure in infants. Specifically, it should be recognized that influenza vaccine recommended for pregnant women and some rhogam preparations contain ethyl mercury in the form of thimerosal. Total mercury burden include other sources including dental amalgams (silver fillings), food especially some types of fish, and air pollution from coal-fired power plants and wildfires.
Concerns regarding mercury in vaccines were addressed in a letter published by the Journal Pediatrics on March 13, 2008. As noted in the letter, parents and pregnant women may want to consider the following data and make an informed decision.
- 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).
- 2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water.
- 20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37).
- 200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste.
- 25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in the Hepatitis B vaccine, administered at birth in the U.S., from 1990-2001.
- 50,000 ppb Mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 4 times each in the 1990's to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age.
- 50,000 ppb Mercury = Current "preservative" level mercury in multi-dose flu (94% of supply), meningococcal and tetanus (7 and older) vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi- dose vials.
NVIC does not maintain a list of places that stock mercury-free flu shots, as availability and locations differ from state to state. We recommend that you call doctor's offices, public health clinics, pharmacies or your state's health department for this information. Close Topic
Vaccine Exemptions & Daycare
What are our rights regarding vaccine exemptions for my children who will be in daycare? If you are a military dependent (beneficiary) and use military medical facilities, Tri-Care Services and/or Military Child Care, you must comply with the DOD policies contained in Joint Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard publication (AR 40-562, BUMEDINST 6230.15A, AFJI 48-110, CG COMDTINST M6230.4F) update released 29 September 2006. These polices are further explained here.
A request for a waiver can be made based on conditions such as those described below. Family members receive vaccinations according to current ACIP recommendations. The ACIP recommendations are outlined on the CDC's website or the Military Vaccine Office website. In addition, family members may be subject to U.S. Armed Services - specific requirements/recommendations for vaccinations which apply to the foreign country in which they will live when accompanying military service members under military sponsorship.
DoD policy is that Military Departments will use the first-available vaccine doses to preserve operational effectiveness, and protect the most vulnerable populations by vaccinating military units that are deployed or will deploy, and other DoD personnel that represent or support critical missions, as well as high risk groups listed in the most current recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
The Military Vaccine (MILVAX) Agency provides guidance on vaccine policy, education, and training. The DoD Vaccine Healthcare Centers (VHC) Network offers clinical guidance and case management for potential vaccine adverse events.
Military personnel can report known or suspected adverse events related to the administration of influenza vaccine to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). AR 40-562, Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis, 29 SEP 06, establishes minimum requirements for submission of a VAERS form as: vaccine reactions resulting in hospitalization or time lost from duty (more than 24 hours), or if contaminated lots are suspected (Ref a).
More information about DoD vaccination programs for vaccine recipients and providers is at the MILVAX website and the VHC website. Additional research information is available on the Military Vaccine Research Directory.
Vaccine Exemption for Military Personnel
I am in the Armed Services and am being told that I have to take anthrax vaccines and other vaccines I don't want to take. What are my rights? - DoD policies require compliance with the provisions contained in Joint Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard publication(AR 40-562, BUMEDINST 6230.15A, AFJI 48-110, CG COMDTINST M6230.4F) update released 29 September 2006. Medical and Administrative (Conscientious and Religious) exemption procedures are contained in Chapter 2: Para 2-6.
For more information about your rights with regard to taking anthrax vaccine or other vaccines required by the military, go to NVIC's Military and Biodefense Vaccine Project, or the Military Vaccine Resource Directory.
What is the Vaccine Healthcare Center (VHC)? -
The Vaccine Healthcare Centers (VHC) Network supports Warrior Care Emergency Preparedness and Military Readiness of the Department of Defense. It was created to act as a specialized clinical support system for the development and implementation of programs research consultation and services that enhance vaccine safety efficacy and acceptability and case management of vaccine adverse events.
There are four VHC's:
|Walter Reed Regional VHC
Walter Reed Army Medical
Center P.O. Box 59605
Phone: 202-782-0411 DSN: 662-0411
|Richard E. Shope Regional VHC
Naval Medical Center Portsmouth
620 John Paul Jones CircleBldg. 1C-107
Phone: 757-953-9150 DSN: 377-9150 Fax: 757-953-5887
|Fort Bragg Regional VHC
Womack Army Medical Center
Bldg 2-2010 Woodruff Street
Fort BraggNorth Carolina 28310-0001
Phone: 910-432-4015 DSN: 239-4015 Fax: 910-432-4054
|Wilford Hall Regional VHC
Wilford Hall Medical Center
2131 Pepperrell StreetBldg. 3350Ste.1
Lackland AFBTX 78236-5314 Phone: 210-292-0482 DSN: 554-0482
If you have questions about the VHC, click here and for general information about the VHC, click here.
Reporting an Adverse Vaccine Reaction
I am in the U.S. Armed Services and I think I have experienced a serious reaction to a vaccine. What should I do? - If you are a military service member or dependent (beneficiary) and think you may be experiencing a vaccine-related adverse event, DoD encourages you to call the DoD Clinical Call Center's 24-hour toll-free number at 1-866-210-6469 or go to the VHC website. Close Topic
What about pet vaccines? - NVIC focuses on vaccines intended for use in humans, but is researching and developing information on pet vaccines. NVIC has been contacted by veterinarians who have stated that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is recommending that veterinarians give fewer vaccines less often than in the past because of the potential for causing immune related diseases in animals. The AVMA is also recommending that veterinarians treat animals individually. Close Topic
Does NVIC have a list of physicians who are willing to use a vaccination schedule other than the one that is recommended by the state or CDC? - NVIC does not maintain lists of physicians or other health care professionals. You may want to consider the following:
- Contacting autism groups to ask for recommendations. Some children with autism experienced regression following vaccination and their parents have found physicians who are willing to consider using alternate vaccination schedules as well as address the children's immune dysfunction with alternative therapies. Autism groups focusing on healing alternatives include:
- If you are looking for a physician or health care professional with an integrative and complimentary health practice that focuses on holistic approaches to maintaining health. Several places to look for referrals:
My child is partially vaccinated and I do not want to give my child additional vaccines. What can I do to prove that my child is immune to the diseases that the state says are required? - Some states will allow exemptions to vaccination for certain diseases if proof of immunity can be shown to exist. Immunity can be proven if you or your child have had the natural disease or have been vaccinated. You have to check your state laws to determine which vaccines in your state can be exempted if proof of immunity is demonstrated.
Private medical laboratories can take blood (a titer test) and analyze it to measure the level of antibodies, for example, to measles or pertussis that are present in the blood. If the antibody level is high enough, according to accepted standards, you have obtained proof of immunity and may be able to use this for an exemption to vaccination. However not all state school systems will take proof of immunity demonstrated by antibody titer tests as a reason to not vaccinate. Again, it is important to be familiar with the laws in your state, which can be found on NVIC's website. Close Topic
Can a school tell a parent to keep their partially vaccinated/unvaccinated child home from school? - In most state vaccine laws there is a provision that, in the event of an outbreak of a disease for which your child has not been vaccinated, you must keep your child at home until a certain amount of time has passed. This could be several weeks or more.
Do private schools and daycares have to honor the vaccine exemptions that are permitted by state law? - No, private educational and childcare institutions including daycare, preschools, elementary through high schools, vocational schools and colleges do not necessarily have to honor the non-medical exemptions permitted by state laws and honored by public schools funded by tax dollars.
The first step in determining whether the private educational institution will accept non-medical exemptions is to request a copy of their health policy and procedures relating to vaccination requirements. Often, private educational institutions that receive funding from the state will accept students with non-medical exemptions but this is not always the case, particularly if the course of study involves medical education programs such as nursing, dentistry or other health fields. It is important to check your states exemption laws and how they apply to these institutions.
I object on religious grounds to use of vaccines that were grown on cell lines derived from aborted fetal material. Must our Catholic school accept our religious exemption for these vaccines? - Private schools that do not receive government funding, including religious institutions, do not have to accept non-medical waivers. Some Catholic schools do not accept exemptions based on religion even for vaccines that were developed using fetal cell lines. The policy of the specific school is often set by the local Diocese. As an official matter, the Vatican has ruled that use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines is not a basis for a church-based policy requiring use of a religious waiver to vaccination.
However, in Catholic canon, there is language which pertains to the duty of every human being to "always obey the certain judgment of his conscience." If you are Catholic, you may want to discuss this issue with a priest. Close Topic
What can I do if I have been accused of child abuse or Shaken Baby Syndrome but I believe what happened to my child was a vaccine reaction? Can NVIC intervene on my behalf? - Charges of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) are very serious and can only be handled by a qualified legal counsel. NVIC does not provide legal services or testify in court proceedings. There has been evidence presented in some court cases involving SBS that severe vaccine reactions have led to brain injuries that have been misdiagnosed as SBS. Please search NVIC's website for information on this topic. Close Topic
I am planning to travel outside of the United States? What vaccines am I required to take? - Travelers to foreign countries should do research and find out what the infectious disease risks are in the countries they will be visiting. The risks of contracting a particular infectious disease and suffering complications versus the risks of getting vaccinated and experiencing a complication have to be weighed in the context of the individual person's health history and risk profile.
The CDC website contains information for international travelers, as do several other websites, about which vaccines are recommended for which countries. It is also important to determine which vaccines are required for obtaining various visas, including travel to other countries.
Some countries will allow you entrance without particular vaccines but will not allow you to leave the country and travel to another country without getting certain vaccines. Be sure you understand vaccination requirements for entering and exiting foreign countries, including the U.S.
As with all vaccines, become informed about potential high risk factors when vaccinating by reviewing NVIC's "Ask Eight, Before You Vaccinate". It is also advisable to read vaccine manufacturer product inserts, seek out additional resource information and speak with a trusted health care professional. If you choose to vaccinate, you may want to consider spreading vaccines out over time rather than getting them all in one day. Close Topic
I need information about the exemptions to vaccination requirements permitted by my state. Where do I get the information? - Legal requirements differ state to state. It is important to understand the difference between a legal requirement and a recommendation. For example, while vaccine policymakers in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that the MMR shot be given to all children, your state may legally require only measles and rubella vaccines.
Most states allow exemption from vaccination, or re-vaccination, if there is proof of existing immunity, which a private laboratory for a blood test can determine. Recognized legal exemptions are medical, philosophical or personal belief exemptions and religious exemption. Each exemption can be worded differently in each state and individuals must inform themselves on what the law is in their state and how it applies, given a suspected adverse reaction. NVIC's website
lists the type of exemption(s) permitted by each state. Although NVIC continually updates our website, state laws and rules change frequently and the website content may not reflect all recent changes to laws.
All states permit a medical exemption to vaccination if a child's health is determined to be at risk if one or more vaccines are given. Medical exemptions must be written by a licensed medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) and, in some states, state health department and education officials may reject a medical exemption if it does not conform to contraindication guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Most states permit exemption to vaccination requirements on the basis of deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs (except West Virginia and Mississippi). Less than half of the states permit exemption to vaccination requirements for personal, philosophical or conscientiously held beliefs. Below is additional information on exemptions:
- Philosophical or Conscientious Exemption: The following 18 states allow exemption to vaccination based on philosophical, personal or conscientiously held beliefs: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. In many of these states, individuals must object to all vaccines, not just a particular vaccine in order to use the philosophical or personal belief exemption. Many state legislators are being urged by federal health officials and medical organizations to revoke this exemption.
- Religious Exemption: All states allow a religious exemption to vaccination except California, Mississippi and West Virginia. The religious exemption is intended for people who hold a sincere religious belief opposing vaccination to the extent that if the state forced vaccination, it would be an infringement on their constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs. Some state laws define religious exemptions broadly to include personal religious beliefs, similar to personal philosophical beliefs. Other states require an individual who claims a religious exemption to be a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) or another bonafide religion whose written tenets include prohibition of invasive medical procedures such as vaccination, however, this kind of language has been ruled unconstitutional when it has been challenged in state Supreme Courts. Some laws require a signed affidavit from the pastor or spiritual advisor of the parent exercising religious exemption that affirms the parents' sincere religious belief about vaccination, while others allow the parent to sign a notarized waiver. Due to differences in state laws, the NVIC does not recommend, or provide, a prewritten waiver for religious exemption and statements made for this purpose are more effective when defined by the individual.
- Medical Exemptions: All 50 states allow medical exemption to vaccination. Proof of medical exemption must take the form of a signed statement by a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) that the administering of one or more vaccines would be detrimental to the health of an individual. Most doctors follow the AAP and CDC guidelines. Most states do not allow Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.) to write medical exemptions to vaccination. Some states will accept a private physician's written exemption without question. Other states allow the state health department to review the doctor's exemption and revoke it if health department officials don't think the exemption is justified.
What is the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)? -
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)
was created under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (PL-99-660) enacted by Congress to institute vaccine safety reforms in the U.S. mass vaccination system and to create a federal no-fault, non-adversarial alternative to suing vaccine manufacturers and providers in civil court. The law also contained requirements for doctors to (1) give parents vaccine benefit and risk information before vaccination; (2) report serious health problems, injuries, hospitalizations and deaths following vaccination to a centralized federally operated Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS
); (3) write down serious health problems following vaccination in the individual's permanent medical record; and (4) keep a permanent record of vaccinations given, including manufacturer's names and lots numbers. NVIC worked with Congress to get these important safety provisions passed within this historic law.
The VICP is administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (the Court), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The VICP is located in the HRSA Healthcare Systems Bureau. Covered vaccines and compensable injuries are described on the "Vaccine Injury Table."
Federal vaccine injury compensation awarded under the 1986 law was divided into two parts: (1) compensation for injuries or deaths that occurred before October 1, 1988 (no matter how long ago the injury occurred) for which the injured individual could choose to pursue a lawsuit without restrictions but the claim would have had to have been filed in the VICP by January 31, 1991; and (2) Injuries or deaths occurring after October 1, 1988.
If a vaccine injury or death occurred after October 1, 1988, the injured person is required to apply for federal compensation before pursuing a lawsuit against a vaccine manufacturer or vaccine provider in civil court. If the U.S. Court of Claims awards compensation to the vaccine injured person:
- The VICP will offer to pay up to $250,000 for a vaccine associated death.
- The VICP will offer to pay for all past and future unreimbursed medical expenses, custodial and nursing home care; and up to $250,000 pain and suffering as well as loss of earned income.
- If an individual rejects the award or is denied compensation, a lawsuit may be filed in civil court but with certain restrictions.
- Claims must be filed within 24 months of a death and 36 months of an injury.
The Claims Process: An individual claiming a vaccine-related injury or death files a petition for compensation with the Court and may be represented by an attorney. The Secretary of HHS is named as the Respondent. An HHS physician reviews the petition to determine whether it meets the medical and VICP legal criteria for compensation. This recommendation is provided to the Court through a Respondent's report filed by the DOJ.
The HHS position is presented by an attorney from the DOJ in hearings before a "Special Master," who makes the decision for compensation under the VICP. A decision may be appealed to the Court, then to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court. If a case is found eligible for compensation, the amount of the award is usually negotiated between the DOJ and the petitioner's attorneys. If the attorneys can't agree, the case is scheduled for a hearing for the special master to assess the amount of compensation.
Compensable claims, and even most claims found to be non-compensable, are awarded reimbursement for attorney's fees and costs. A petitioner may file a claim in civil court against the vaccine company and/or the vaccine administrator only after first filing a claim under the VICP and then rejecting the decision of the Court. It can take two to 10 years to resolve vaccine injury claims in the VICP.
The VICP is funded by a surcharge on all doses of vaccines recommended by the CDC for "universal use" by all children. Monies from the surcharge are placed in a Trust Fund maintained by the government for use to pay vaccine victims. (By 2009, nearly $2 billion had been awarded to vaccine victims even though two out of three plaintiffs are denied compensation and there was a nearly $3 billion surplus in the VICP Trust Fund).
All suspected vaccine reactions should be reported to the VAERS operated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Health care providers are required by law to report reactions. If the doctor will not report the reaction, NVIC will provide you with the forms so you can report the reaction.
Where can I get additional information about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? - For more information, including information about restrictions that apply to filing a petition, visit the VICP website or phone 1-800-338-2382. For information on the Rules of the Court, including requirements for filing a petition, visit the Court's Website or phone (202) 357-6400.
I think I (or my child) was injured by a vaccine and want to file a claim with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. What do I need to do? - In order to file a compensation claim you will likely need to hire an attorney who is experienced in bringing vaccine injury claims under the VICP. The VICP maintains a list of lawyers who have filed VICP claims.
My child has been diagnosed with autism and I believe it was due to a vaccine injury and I want to file a claim. What should I do? - Currently, there are nearly 5,000 pending cases of regressive autism following vaccination that have been filed in the VICP. The cases are being handled in a group referred to as "Omnibus Hearings." In the past, the program has awarded compensation to children who suffered a brain inflammation/encephalopathy after receiving DPT or DTaP vaccine and suffered permanent brain damage, including autism.
To file a claim, parents will likely need to contact an attorney experienced in filing vaccine injury claims under the VICP in the U.S. Court of Claims. There is a statute of limitations on the amount of time that can pass between vaccination, onset of injury and filing a claim.
For more information click VICP please or visit our webpage here. Close Topic
Have specific reactions been associated with specific vaccines? - Like any medical product, every vaccine carries risks that can be greater for some than others. Some vaccines have side effects and symptoms which occur more often in one vaccine than other vaccines. As a consumer vaccine safety advocacy organization, NVIC worked on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and was responsible for urging the creation of safety provisions in that historic law. This included a centralized vaccine reaction reporting system, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), that is jointly operated by the federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control.
If your, or your child, experiences serious health problems following vaccination, regressed physically, mentally or emotionally after vaccination or has experienced acute symptoms within hours, days or weeks of vaccination it should be reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) website, or by calling 1-800-822-7967. Your doctor is required by law to report adverse reactions to vaccination within 30 days of vaccination. You, a nurse or health department official may also report serious health problems following vaccination to VAERS.
NVIC also provides as a public service our Ask Eight, Before You Vaccinate webpage that gives and overview of reaction symptoms and injury compensation. Below are some examples of reaction symptoms. If you observe any of these symptoms – or any other symptom that causes you concern – get medical help right away.:
- Rash, hives or severe itching
- Swelling, redness and pain at the injection site
- High fever over 103F
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Rapid heart beat or chest pain
- Dizziness or sudden collapse/fainting
- Paleness or changes in skin or lip color
- Muscle weakness or limpness
- Excessive sleepiness or lack of responsiveness
- Loss of vision or speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe diarrhea
- Unusual irritability or other behavior changes
- Prolonged crying (especially high-pitched screaming in infants)
- Seizures or convulsions (shaking, twitching, jerking)
- Joint and body pain
- Head pain
- Excessive bruising under the skin
- Numbness or tingling in hands, arms, feet
Although it has been the law since 1986 for doctors and other vaccine providers to report hospitalizations, injuries, deaths and serious health problems following vaccination to VAERS, it is estimated that less than 10 percent, perhaps less than one percent of all vaccine-related health problems are ever reported to VAERS. It is very important that ALL serious health problems, which develop after vaccination, be reported to the federal health authorities at VAERS. NVIC has acted as a watchdog on VAERS and we encourge consumers to also report vaccine reactions to NVIC's Vaccine Reaction Registry, operated since 1982. We also host MedAlerts, the service that allows the public to easily search the federal VAERS database.
As a society we need to know how many people who get vaccinated are getting sick after vaccination and how many go on to die or are permanently injured. In addition, information provided to the VAERS may also help identify common factors, which affect certain individuals who have adverse responses to vaccination. More information can lead to safer vaccines, safer vaccine policies and medical research to develop screening techniques to help reduce vaccine reactions.
I'm trying to get a list that identifies the adverse reaction rates of all the childhood vaccines. In other words, which vaccines have the highest rate of adverse reactions? - Although this information should be available, it either does not exist or is not available to the public. Theoretically, it should be possible to calculate for each vaccine how many adverse reactions are reported to the federal reporting system, VAERS, every year. However, we know that only between one and ten percent of reactions are ever reported even though there has been a federal law in place since 1986 that requires serious health problems following vaccination to be reported to the government.
Even if all the vaccine-related adverse health events were reported, it wouldn't necessarily mean that every adverse health event that has been reported to VAERS after vaccination has been solely caused by the vaccine(s) recently given. Another complicating factor is that, today, children tend to get many different vaccines simultaneously at every office visit. As a result, it is often difficult to attach a specific health problem following vaccination to a specific vaccine.
Another major limitation to evaluating "adverse reaction rates" is that "rates" can be computed by dividing the numerator (number of adverse reactions) by the denominator (number of vaccines given). There isn't a valid publicly available source of data regarding the numbers of doses of each vaccine and numbers of children who receive doses of each vaccine annually in the U.S.
Other than the VAERS database, information on adverse reaction rates must come from large, prospective studies that are conducted over a long period of time to evaluate the health outcomes of children who receive multiple vaccines from birth. An ideal clinical trial would compare the health of those children who receive many vaccines to those who receiver far fewer and no vaccines. No such clinical trial has ever been conducted. Close Topic
Which vaccines are safe to give? -
Like every prescription medication, every vaccine carries a risk of injury or death that can be greater for some than others. Every vaccine recommended for use by government and doctors has been associated with hospitalizations, injuries and deaths. Whether or not you or your child suffers a vaccine reaction will depend upon the vaccine(s) given and the various genetic, biological and other high-risk co-factors that may be known and unknown at the time of vaccination.
There is no guarantee that a particular vaccine will be safe to give to a particular individual and will not result in permanent injury or death. For some, there may be little or no risk when getting vaccinated and, for others, the risks are 100 percent.
If you, as a parent, are concerned that continuing vaccination would harm your child and a doctor is insisting more vaccines be given without your voluntary consent, you should contact another trusted health care professional for a second opinion. If your child has experienced health deterioration after previous vaccinations, it is important listen to your intuition and be totally comfortable with a vaccination decision for your child before proceeding with more vaccination. As a public service, NVIC provides our Ask Eight, If You Vaccinate webpage to assist consumers in becoming informed.
Which vaccines does NVIC recommend? -
NVIC does not give medical advice or make specific recommendations about which vaccines should be given, when or to whom. A vaccination decision should be made after becoming fully informed about the benefits and risks of infectious diseases and vaccines and after considering an individual's personal and family medical history, contraindications to vaccination, and consultation with one or more trusted health care professionals.
NVIC's website contains information to help make informed vaccine choices. There are many other websites, books, news reports, films and other sources of information as well that also appear on our resources webpage.
I've heard that vaccines do not produce "immunity." Is this true? - Vaccines provide temporary immunity and sometimes vaccines fail to provide even temporary immunity for some individuals. Because vaccination does not exactly mimic the immunity produced after natural infection, which is often longer-lasting or permanent, booster doses of vaccines are often required to extend vaccine-induced immunity.
I've heard that vaccines do not produce "immunity." Is this true? - Vaccines provide temporary immunity and sometimes vaccines fail to provide even temporary immunity for some individuals. Because vaccination does not exactly mimic the immunity produced after natural infection, which is often longer-lasting or permanent, booster doses of vaccines are often required to extend vaccine-induced immunity.
Is it true that a baby's immune system at birth can handle 10,000 vaccines at a time? - This statement has not been backed up by scientific studies. To our knowledge, there is no scientific evidence that a baby's immune system is fully developed at birth and/or can safely handle any particular number of vaccines, let alone 10,000 vaccines at once.
Large, prospective long term studies evaluating the health of infants and children given 69 doses of 16 vaccines from birth to age 18, which is the current federal recommendation, have never been conducted. There have never been studies to evaluate whether babies with a personal or family history or allergy and autoimmune disorders may be at higher risk than others for complications from use of multiple vaccines throughout childhood. There have never been large studies comparing the health of highly vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to compare for all health outcomes and changes in immune and brain function over time.
When statements are made that contradict common sense, such as the idea that a small infant can handle 10,000 vaccines at once, it is important to check out the potential ideological biases and conflicts of interest associated with individuals making such statements.
After his four-year boosters, my son developed chronic strep infections, skin infections, swollen lymph nodes all over his body, multiple food allergies and general fever and lethargy. His chronic eczema started at two-months followed by recurring ear infections and food allergies. He is fully vaccinated. His doctor checked his antibody titers and he has no titers for the pneumococcal vaccine. He is recommending that my son be re-vaccinated with the pneumococcal vaccine. I'm concerned about doing this in that it may further compromise his immune system. What do you think? - A certain number of people who are vaccinated will not develop antibodies to one or more vaccines no matter how many times they are vaccinated. We are not aware of evidence showing that additional vaccines given at this point will produce positive antibody titers. The fact that he does not have titers to the pneumococcal vaccine after being repeatedly vaccinated with the pneumococcal vaccine and his history of chronic infection, multiple allergies and eczema may indicate that he is suffering from chronic immune dysfunction.
You may want to consider getting a second opinion from an immunologist or other qualified health care professional before proceeding with more vaccination. Re-vaccinating in the face of health deterioration after previous vaccinations or vaccinating when sick can result in permanent health damage, depending upon the individual.
As a public service, NVIC provides our Ask Eight, If You Vaccinate webpage to assist consumers in becoming informed. NVIC encourages you to continue to read and educate yourself while seeking additional medical opinions. Only make fully informed medical decisions when you are ready and believe your decision is what is best for your child. Finding a doctor who is willing to help you and respect your informed vaccination decisions is very important.
If you, as a parent, are concerned that continuing vaccination would harm your child and a doctor is insisting more vaccines be given without your voluntary consent, you should contact another trusted health care professional for a second opinion. If your child has experienced health deterioration after previous vaccinations, it is important listen to your intuition and be totally comfortable with a vaccination decision for your child before proceeding with more vaccination. Close Topic
Frequently Asked Questions about NVIC
NVIC maintains comprehensive information on vaccines and infectious diseases and recommends that individuals visit that portion of our website for more detailed and comprehensive information on this topic. The information below reflects only those questions which are frequently asked.
Now that the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine has been switched from DTP (pertussis whole cell form) to DTaP (pertussis acellular form), is the vaccine safe? - In 1996, it was recommended that vaccine be switched from use of whole-cell pertussis (DTP) to acellular pertussis (DTaP).
Whole cell DPT vaccine is a relatively crude vaccine that contains B. pertussis bacteria chemically and heat treated. Acellular DTaP contains less endotoxin and less bioactive pertussis toxin. Both DPT and DTaP contain aluminum adjuvants.
Pertussis toxin is an extremely lethal toxin capable of crossing the blood brain barrier and it is used by researchers in laboratories to deliberately induce Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAS) in lab animals. Pertussis toxin is an ingredient in whole cell DPT vaccine and the acellular DTaP vaccine but it is less bioactive in DTaP.
Whole-cell DPT contains B. pertussis bacteria heat and chemically treated as well as significant amounts of endotoxin (capable of killing animals and humans on its own). There is less endotoxin in DTaP, however both DPT and DTaP contain aluminum adjuvants. Aluminum can kill brain cells and make the blood brain barrier more permeable
Even though the acellular DTaP vaccine is believed to be less reactive than the whole cell DPT vaccine, NVIC still receives reports of serious reactions following DTaP vaccination that are consistent with symptoms and injuries known to be associated with DPT vaccine, including high pitched screaming, fever over 103F, collapse/shock (hypotonic/hyporesponsive episode), convulsions, and encephalopathy.
Infants and children, who have demonstrated one or more of these symptoms following DTAP vaccination (or any other vaccination), should be carefully evaluated by one or more health care professionals before more DTaP or other vaccines are given. If you, as a parent, are concerned that continuing vaccination would harm your child and a doctor is insisting more vaccines be given without your voluntary consent, you should contact another trusted health care professional for a second opinion. If your child has experienced health deterioration after previous vaccinations, it is important listen to your intuition and become totally comfortable before proceeding with more vaccination.
What is the difference between DTP, DTaP and Tdap? - DPT vaccine is a combination of three inactivated bacterial vaccines: diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. There are many different forms and combinations of these vaccines licensed for use in the United States. Some versions of the vaccine are only appropriate for adults and adolescents (Tdap, Td and TT). Various versions of the vaccine for infants and young children include DPT (whole cell pertussis), which is no longer used in the U.S.; DTaP (acellular pertussis) which was licensed in 1996 for babies; and DT (diphtheria, tetanus).
Where can I get split-up, single dose DTaP vaccine for my baby or preschooler or split-up single dose Tdap for my adolescent? - The "P" part of the combination DPT or DTaP vaccine is the vaccine which is associated with the most cases of brain inflammation and permanent brain damage. Infants who cannot have the "P" or pertussis (whooping cough) portion of the vaccine are generally given the DT vaccine.
Your child's pediatrician or health department should be able to obtain the DT vaccine if your child has had a previous reaction after receiving DPT or DTaP vaccine. Separate doses of the three vaccines for children are not available any longer in the U.S.. For children, the only combinations are DT, DTaP or Tdap.
Where can I get split-up, single dose MMR vaccine for my baby or preschooler? - The MMR shot contains three live virus vaccines (Measles-Mumps-Rubella). Some parents want to administer the three vaccines separately and space them out. However, the separate measles, mumps and rubella vaccines are no longer available in the U.S. because the manufacturer has stopped marketing the separate vaccines. If state laws require only two doses of rubella vaccine but three doses of measles vaccine, the only option is for a child to get three doses of MMR.
Our doctor said my wife had no antibodies to rubella and recommended that she get the MMR after our child was born. About a week after she got the vaccine, she broke out in a rash, had a fever, and all her joints were stiff and painful. Could this be a reaction to the vaccine? My wife is nursing, was my child exposed to this vaccine? - The symptoms you have reported have been associated with adverse reactions to the MMR. The MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine contains three attenuated live virus vaccines and a nursing infant would be exposed to the live viruses in the vaccine through the breast milk. All live virus vaccines can transmit vaccine strain virus through breast milk and other bodily fluids, such as waste products. There have been documented cases of vaccine strain chickenpox transmitted from a recently vaccinated child to other children and to pregnant women. The live oral polio vaccine (OPV) recommended for use in the U.S until 1999 could transmit vaccine strain polio virus and cause paralytic polio in vaccine recipients or those who came into contact with an individual receiving OPV.
Does my newborn need the Hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital? - Unless the mother is positive for Hepatitis B or there are other risk factors (such as the need for frequent blood transfusions), hepatitis B is not a disease commonly encountered by infants. Hepatitis B is primarily transmitted by IV drug users and those with multiple sexual partners.
Hepatitis B vaccine is routinely given to infants in the newborn nursery of hospitals at between two hours and 12 hours of age. If you do not want your infant to be injected with hepatitis B vaccine at birth, it is important to make that notation on the written forms that are signed by mothers upon entering the hospital to give birth.
An additional precaution is taken by some mothers by having the baby's father or another family member accompany the newborn at all times during the first 24 hours when the baby is not with the mother. Unfortunately, there are cases where medical personnel disregard the written instructions and administer the hepatitis B vaccine to newborns despite written and verbal instructions by the parents to defer the hepatitis B vaccination until a later date.
My neighbor's children were vaccinated for chickenpox (varicella zoster) and one developed chickenpox lesions. Can my child get chickenpox from the vaccine or from children who have been recently vaccinated? - Yes, about 4 to 10 percent of children who have been recently vaccinated have developed a rash with chickenpox lesions within 7 to 21 days after vaccination. It is thought that children who develop lesions after getting varicella zoster vaccine are contagious and can transmit varicella zoster vaccine strain chickenpox to others.
A few studies have documented transmission of vaccine-strain chickenpox from a recently vaccinated person to non-vaccinated children who then developed chickenpox lesions. Specifically, a study showed that five months after two siblings were immunized with varicella zoster vaccine, one developed chickenpox. Two weeks later the second sibling got a mild case of chickenpox and the virus was found to be vaccine-type, which gave evidence for transmission of vaccine strain chickenpox from sibling to sibling. Another study described transmission of vaccine strain chickenpox from a recently vaccinated mother to her two children.
My child is immune-compromised and has not had the chickenpox vaccine. Should he be vaccinated? What should I do if he is exposed to chickenpox? - This is a question that needs to be discussed with one or more qualified health care providers. Although the CDC recommends that immunocompromised persons get chickenpox vaccine, it is a live virus vaccine and the risks and benefits as well as timing of vaccination need to be carefully considered. NVIC has been informed by some parents that the anti-viral drug Acyclovir has been prescribed by their child's physician to treat chickenpox. Other parents have indicated that their child's physician prescribed hyper-immune gamma globulin.
Is it true that children can get polio from the polio vaccine? - Yes, some children who get the oral (by mouth) live polio vaccine (OPV) have developed cases of vaccine-strain paralytic polio. Outbreaks of vaccine-strain polio have been documented in India, Indonesia and Nigeria. In 1999, the U.S. stopped using the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) and switched to the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is injected. NVIC is not aware of any cases of vaccine-strain polio associated with use of the inactivated polio vaccine.
Is it true that monkey viruses contaminated polio vaccines? - Yes, SV40 (the 40th simian virus to be identified in polio vaccines) did contaminate both early inactivated Salk vaccine and live oral polio (Sabin) vaccines made using monkey kidney tissues. Original OPV seed stocks were contaminated with SV40. Today, SV40 has been identified in brain, bone and lung tumors affecting children and adults. There is ongoing controversy about the association between SV40 contaminated polio vaccines and increases in brain, bone and lung cancer in children.
I'm interested in getting the smallpox vaccine. Where can I get it and are there any issues that I should be concerned about? - Smallpox vaccine is not routinely administered in the U.S. to civilians. You should contact your physician or local health department. After September 11, 2001, there were concerns about a bioterrorism attack using weaponized smallpox virus. Federal officials made tentative plans to extend stored smallpox vaccine supplies and offer smallpox vaccinations to all Americans. NVIC has prepared information to educate the public about smallpox and smallpox vaccine. Federal plans to use old smallpox vaccine supplies were eventually scrapped and new smallpox vaccines are being developed under Bioshield legislation passed since 9/11. Close Topic