Vaccination: What are the risks?

M. Doherty M_Doherty at
Mon Jun 12 14:30:07 EST 1995

In article <jcherwon.57.0010DEE0 at>, jcherwon at (John
Cherwonogrodzky) wrote:

> Dear Colleagues:
>      Regarding vaccination and risks, it has been stated on the net that, in 
> the case of measles and chickenpox, pregnant women should not be vaccinated. 
> I've forgotten my basic immunology. Is it because the vaccine is attenuated 
> yet may be pathogenic to the fetus because the virus, but not maternal 
> antibodies, can cross the placental barrier?

I suspect (but don't know for sure) that the reason is to avoid any
adverse effect on the fetus from inducing a vigorous immune response in
the mother.  Infections in animal models (even non-life threatening ones)
have been shown to greatly induce the risk of spontaneous abortion.  Any
other suggestions?

>      At any rate, the above is a good example that there are risks but 
> that these are not random nor overwhelming. With a little knowledge these 
> risks can be greatly reduced to become non-issues.
>      Another example I read some time ago was about the smallpox vaccine. In 
> an English village (in the 1950s?) that had a harbour and was exposed to a 
> crew carrying the disease, 17 people died to smallpox, 27 people died to the 
> vaccine. The numbers are unfair because there were more of the people 
> vaccinated than were exposed to the disease.

The vaccinia vaccine has been used in literally billions of people and
been proved  extremely safe.  In addition, I'm not aware of ANY
smallpox-realted mortality of this magnitude in England in the '50s. 
Anyone know anything about this?

 Still, the article said that the 
> vaccine (attenuated but live) is deadly to those with skin diseases such as 
> eczema. 

Sorry.  Definately no basis in fact.

It sounds like this is another "vaccine scare" article to me.  I wouldn't
put too much faith in such "undocumented" claims.

Cheers, Mark

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