Vaccines and Asthma or Allergies

Do vaccines cause asthma or allergies?

Several large studies have investigated the relationship between vaccines and allergies.

One well-controlled study was performed using the computerized records of children born between 1991 and 1997 who were enrolled in four large health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Researchers identified 18,407 children with asthma. The risk for asthma was not greater in children who received diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine, oral polio vaccine, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine or hepatitis B vaccine compared with children who did not receive these vaccines.

Another large well-controlled study prospectively evaluated the risk of allergies following receipt of the pertussis vaccine in 669 children. Infants were randomized to receive one of three different diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine or a control vaccine that did not contain pertussis beginning at 2 months of age. Children were followed for about two and a half years and the risk of allergies was determined by parent questionnaires and examination of medical records. Allergic disorders studied included asthma, skin reactions, hay fever, hives and food allergies. No differences in the incidence of allergic diseases were observed in children who did or did not receive pertussis vaccine. Of interest, children with natural pertussis infections were more likely to develop allergic diseases than children not infected with pertussis.

Taken together, these studies fail to support the hypothesis that vaccines cause asthma or allergic diseases.


Anderson HR, Poloniecki JD, Strachan DP, et al. Immunization and symptoms of atopic disease in children: results from the international study of asthma and allergies in children. Am J Public Health. 2001 Jul;91(7):1126-9.

DeStefano F, Gu D, Kramarz P, et al. Childhood vaccinations and the risk of asthma. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002 Jun;21(6):498-504.

Gruber C, Kulig M, Bergmann R, et al. Delayed hypersensitivity to tuberculin, total immunoglobulin E, specific sensitization, and atopic manifestations in longitudinally followed early Bacille Calmette-Guerin-vaccinated and nonvaccinated children. Pediatrics. 2001 Mar;107(3):E36.

Kramarz P, DeStefano F, Gargiullo PM, et al. Does influenza vaccination exacerbate asthma? Analysis of a large cohort of children with asthma. Vaccine Safety Datalink Team. Arch Fam Med. 2000 Jul;9(7):617-23.

Nilsson L, Kjellman N, Bjorksten B. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of pertussis vaccines on atopic disease. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med .1998 Aug;152(8):734-8.

Nicholson KG, Nguyen-Van-Tam JS, Ahmed AH, et al. Randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial on effect of inactivated influenza vaccine on pulmonary function in asthma. Lancet. 1998 Jan 31;351(9099):326-31.

Reid DW, Bromly CL, Stenton SC, et al. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effect of influenza vaccination on airway responsiveness in asthma. Respir Med. 1998 Aug;92(8):1010-1.

Wickens K, Crane J, Kemp T, et al. A case-control study of risk factors for asthma in New Zealand children. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2001;25(1):44-49.

Reviewed by Paul A. Offit, MD on November 04, 2014

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

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