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) in the United States. 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 in Sweden 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.

Finally, a population-based cohort study in Australia followed 5,500 patients from ages 7 to 44 years. Investigators looked for associations between receipt of vaccines and asthma, eczema, food allergies or hay fever. No association was found between the receipt of childhood vaccines (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and smallpox) and any of these conditions.

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

Learn more by watching these short videos from the Talking about Vaccines with Dr. Paul Offit video series:


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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 May 20, 2020

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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