IOM Report on Child Vaccinations Urges More Research

"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."


Contact: Barbara Loe Fisher

For Immediate Release
February 20, 2002


Washington, D.C. - Responding to a report issued today by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) on child vaccinations and autoimmune dysfunction, the nation's oldest and largest vaccine safety and informed consent advocacy organization, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) endorsed IOM's call for expanded basic science research into the development of the human immune system and identification of genetic and other biomarkers which could predispose some children to vaccine based adverse events, including autoimmunity.

The report, issued by the IOM's Immunization Safety Review Committee, found that scientific evidence from epidemiological studies on whether allergy, including asthma, can be caused by multiple vaccinations was conflicting and concluded that the evidence "was inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship." The Committee concluded that epidemiological studies to date "favor rejection of a causal relationship between multiple immunizations and increased risk for infections and for type 1 diabetes." However, the Committee also concluded that they did find some biological mechanism evidence that vaccines could increase the risk of immune dysfunction in some children that could lead to increased infections and allergy, including asthma. They stated that "the biological mechanisms evidence regarding increased risk for infections is strong."

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has long advocated increased basic science research into the biological mechanisms for immunity and vaccine adverse events, with particular emphasis on identifying genetic and other biomarkers that may play a role in increasing susceptibility for vaccine-induced neuroimmune dysfunction. Acknowledging the absence of research into this area, the Committee said, "The Committee was unable to address the concern that repeated exposure of a susceptible child to multiple immunizations over the developmental period may also produce atypical or non-specific immune or nervous system injury that could lead to severe disability or death. (Fisher, 2001). There are no epidemiological studies that address this. Thus, the committee recognizes with some discomfort that this report addresses only part of the overall set of concerns of some of those most wary about the safety of childhood immunizations."

NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher called the report "an important step in acknowledging the very real basic science research needs of our nation's mass vaccination system. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the growing minority of children who, for biological reasons, are not able to handle the increasing numbers of vaccinations routinely being given to all children."

The IOM Committee pointed out that "as the array of available vaccines and disease targets expands the current emphasis on universal recommendations and state mandates for vaccine use should be reassessed." It encouraged "an exploration of the merits of accommodating requests for alternative vaccine-dosing schedules and the development of appropriate clinical guidance for any such alternatives. A more flexible schedule might allow for a reduction in the number of vaccines administered at one time."

Although the IOM Committee report did not recommend a policy review by the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration or the American Academy of Pediatrics at this time, the Committee report summary clearly recommended continued scientific research and consideration of "new frameworks for immunization policy, particularly as the number of licensed vaccines increases."

"While we disagree with some of the Committees conclusions regarding the relative strengths and weakness of both the epidemiological and biological mechanism data that bears on proof of causality involved in vaccine-related autoimmunity and believe that specialized, methodologically sound studies of possible associations between multiple vaccinations and immune system dysfunction should be given a high funding and program priority by federal health agencies, we are pleased that this IOM report has identified a number of areas in which vaccine adverse event and policy research should be re-examined," said Fisher. "We hope that both government and industry will pay attention to the signals given in this report and work with parents of vaccine injured children to come to a better scientific understanding of why, for some children, the risks of vaccination are 100 percent."

A non-profit, educational organization founded in 1982 by parents of vaccine injured children, NVIC serves as a consumer watchdog on vaccine development and policymaking. NVIC advocates the institution of safety and informed consent protections in the mass vaccination system and basic science research into genetic and other biological factors which place some individuals at high risk for vaccine injury and death.

To view the full report:

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