The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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Vaccines: Separating Fact From Fear - New Vaccines, Should You Wait?

Parent: You've been talking a little bit about some newer vaccines that are out on the market now. Wouldn't it maybe be a better idea to wait until there's more data on the new vaccines that are out?

Paul A. Offit, MD: I think that's a great question, and probably the best way to answer it is to look at our newest vaccine. The most recent vaccine that was made available in this country was a vaccine to prevent a bacteria called pneumococcus.

Susan Coffin, MD: Pneumococcal vaccine has been made using a strategy, which is virtually identical to that used in a vaccine for haemophilus influenza b. That's a vaccine children have been getting for over ten years

Paul A. Offit, MD: Now, here's a vaccine that has already been tested in tens of thousands of children for several years, and we know it to be safe. But a parent could say, "Well, why not wait five years or ten years until the vaccine has been put in millions of children so that I can just make sure." I think what parents need to realize is what we do know about pneumococcus. What we do know is it is the most severe bacterial infection of young children.

Carla Newby, parent: I rode with him in the ambulance down to the next hospital. When they got out of doing their triage and immediate care for him, they basically told us at that point that Jake was in a comma. He was on a respirator. He was not breathing on his own and that he wasn't going to make it. They fought for him for--it was 14 hours and 45 minutes later, and Jake was pronounced brain dead at that point.

Paul A. Offit, MD: So while parents are waiting to see whether or not the pneumococcal vaccine is safe five or ten years from now, they're taking the risk that every year their children could be one of those children that's permanently harmed or killed by that bacteria, and it is a risk that is simply not worth taking.

Susan Coffin, MD: In all cases, vaccines are undergoing what's called "post licensure surveillance." And those are actually research studies to evaluate a vaccine's safety once it's licensed. Parents may remember a recent episode with the rotavirus vaccine. That vaccine was licensed in the late 1990s to protect young children against serious gastroenteritis. But once it became licensed, there were very, very, rare cases where children actually developed problems likely related to the vaccine with their gastrointestinal tract. And within less than eight months, that vaccine was discontinued. No more children received it. And so I think that shows the ongoing surveillance and prompt responses that groups like the Centers for Disease Control have had in maintaining and establishing the safety of new vaccines.