Are Vaccines Really Safe?

Date & Time

Wed, 05/05/2010


Vaccines stimulate an immune response to a particular disease, allowing the host immune system to “remember” and destroy invading pathogens. Since Edward Jenner’s early use of cowpox vaccination to prevent smallpox in 1796, vaccines have been developed to protect against a large number of human diseases. Vaccines against major childhood diseases including smallpox, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella have allowed millions of children to survive to adulthood. These efforts were strongly supported by the public, with the “March of Dimes” campaign to provide Polio vaccines to prevent debilitating paralysis. –

There has been a vocal opposition to vaccination since the earliest vaccination efforts. Critics have argued about the safety, morality, and ethics of vaccines from religious and political perspectives. Others have argued that vaccines are unsafe due to contamination, composition, or collateral effects.

Recently there has been extensive publicity about a purported link between vaccines and autism, however the primary evidence for such a link has recently been debunked as scientific fraud. Nevertheless, because the scientific basis of autism is still poorly understood, it is difficult to extinguish these concerns.

This raises many ethical questions. If there is a possibility of harmful side-effects associated with vaccines, can it ever be appropriate for the medical community to promote vaccination? If vaccines have the potential to improve the health and well-being of many people, does this outweigh the potential harm to a few individuals? Is it ethical to dissuade people from vaccination when there is evidence that it saves lives and there is no compelling scientific evidence that it is unsafe?



PBS: “Frontline”:Vaccines

KPBS These Days: “The Ethics of Vaccines and Public Health

Our Flickr page: Are Vaccines Really Safe?


Eric Courchesne
UCSD, Autism Center of Excellence

Eric Courchesne is one of the world’s leading experts on the neurobiology of autism. He is the overall director and principle investigator of the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence, and is also the director of the UCSD Autism Center’s MRI Project on early brain development in autism. His research and the Center are dedicated to uncovering the brain bases and genetic causes of autism. Current MRI studies of autism aim to identify the brain structures that are abnormal at infancy in autism and to discover patterns of abnormal early brain growth.


Edward Morgan
SDSU, BioScience Center

I am trained as an immunologist/medical microbiologist. I have over 30 years of experience in the study of immunological tolerance, autoimmunity, lymphocyte/macrophage activation,
vaccine development, cancer treatment, and inflammatory diseases in mouse and human model systems. For the past 15 years I have focused my research efforts on better ways to produce and deliver vaccines. Our approach has been the use of novel naturally occurring biological response modifiers to increase vaccine efficacy. Based on the current concerns about vaccine safety and the inability to create effective vaccines to problematic pathogens their needs to be a shift in our current thinking about approaching research and clinical practice paradigms by the use of novel methodologies in vaccine development. To date our approach has been successful for the development of vaccines to both fungal and bacterial infections.

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