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Vaccines: What's Right for Your Baby?

Question: Can vaccines cause dangerous side effects?

Isabelle Wilder* of Delray Beach, Florida, stopped vaccinating her four children after the third was 15 months old. "My belief is that vaccines interact negatively with the chemical or biological makeup of some individuals, and there's no way to predict who will be affected," she says. Wilder herself has an autoimmune disease and once broke out in a rash from handling a prewrapped croissant from a foreign country. Her children have shown sensitivities to all kinds of substances from milk to cosmetics to penicillin to oak pollen. "Our family presents a pattern of immune system reactions, possibly triggered by vaccines," she says. Wilder's eldest child has an auditory processing disorder (his brain has trouble processing sounds and spoken language); her second child has ADHD; and her third child was diagnosed with autism. Her youngest, who was never vaccinated, seems fine.

Facts: The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a CDC and FDA safety surveillance program, has been tracking vaccine side effects since 1990. According to the FDA, most side effects are mild and temporary, including a sore arm, mild fever, headache and fatigue. (A fever is a sign that your body is fighting off something.) According to the CDC website, 1 in 20 patients will develop a mild rash after the MMR vaccine, and 1 in 25 might develop a mild rash after the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine. Although side effects vary by shot, around 1 in 16,000 patients will develop a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and around 1 in 14,000 will have seizures after the DTaP vaccine. Fewer than 1 in 500,000 children will have a severe allergic reaction involving major swelling, difficulty breathing and a significant change in behavior -- acting very sluggish, seemingly out of it. (As with any significant change in behavior or appearance, call 911 if you notice this in your child,) According to the CDC, "so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically."

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