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Myths and Realities

Immunisation is generally accepted by the majority in Australia. There are however small areas where anti-immunisation groups or those skeptical about immunisation are raising concerns about safety and adverse events from immunisation. It is understandable that parents are seeking information to alleviate their concerns and to be able to make an informed decision about vaccinating. When seeking this information it should be based on sound scientific studies. Scientifically it should contain references from and to recognized peer-reviewed publications. The individuals or group providing the information should be qualified to address the subject matter. Beware of "junk science" and suggestions of "conspiracies.


MMR & Autism

A possible link between MMR and autism was researched by a group lead by Dr Wakefield in the United Kingdom. The research generated a lot of media attention and has lead to decline in MMR vaccinations especially in the UK. The research itself was controversial, the study was only conducted on highly selected patients and there were too few patients and no control patients. Further studies in Sweden, USA, Finland, France and UK have shown no evidence of an association between MMR and Autism.

In 2004, 10 of the original 12 original authors of Dr Wakefield’s 1998 study published a statement retracting the paper’s interpretation, stating ‘We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient’
(reference: The Lancet Vol 363, March 6 2004

In 2010 a lengthy investigation by UK General Medical Council resulted in a 143 page report  titled Fitness to practice Panel Hearing, 28 January 2010. The report find that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield were incorrect, In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. It was found that Wakefield had received £50,000 to carry out the research on behalf of solicitors acting for parents who believed that their children had been harmed by MMR, but could not account for how at least half this money had been spent. The first time in history the Lancet made a full retraction of the paper (Reference: )
The decrease in MMR vaccination in the UK has lead to an increase of measles and Mumps. In 2009 there was 1140 cases of measles in the UK.
( reference:


The National Centre of Immunization and Research Surveillance (NCIRS)
MMR vaccine, inflammatory bowel disease and autism- fact sheet

The New England Journal of medicine.
A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism

Further links

Brain Deer from Sunday times and UK’s Channel 4 Television investigated and obtained documents about Dr Wakefield and his research. His web site, the Wakefield factor, includes information on the conflict of interest for Wakefield’s research, as he received funding from a lawyer that was filing a law suit against drug companies that manufactured MMR. He also obtained documents that Wakefield had applied for a patent on a measles vaccine, a product that would benefit if MMR vaccine reputation was damaged.
Times online DR Wakefield summary 


Cancer & Leukemia

Anti-vaccination groups have made accusations questioning whether childhood vaccines are implicated in the rise of  cancers including leukemia. It has been difficult to ascertain where this allegation originated from.


Many scientists believe that microbes (infectious agents- bacteria, virus, and parasites) cause or contribute to some cancers. There has been and continues to be immense studies and research involving causes, prevention and treatment of cancer.

Vaccines provide protection against cancer

There have been two vaccines developed to provide protection against cancer: 1) HepB vaccination protects against hepatitis B virus which can cause liver cancer in chronically infected people, and 2)HPV vaccine (also known as gardasil or cervarix ) provides protection vaccine against HPV- human papillomavirus, types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. These vaccines provide protection, not treatment. The public health benefits of vaccines against HPV types 16 and 18 may extend beyond reducing the risks of cervical cancer to include vaginal, vulver, anus, penis and orpharynx cancers from chronic infection of HPV.

Research in vaccines to treat cancer

Researchers are developing treatment vaccines against many types of cancer and testing them in clinical trials.  Cancer treatment vaccines are designed to treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)


‘Risk of Childhood Leukemia Associated with Vaccination, Infection, and Medication Use in Childhood’
A Cross-Canada Leukemia study 

Extract from discussion results
Studies of vaccination in infancy or early childhood have generally reported a protective effect on the risk of childhood leukemia (16–19), although findings vary according to the type of vaccine and the age at immunization. Decreased risks of leukemia have been associated with measles vaccination (16), DTP vaccination (17), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccination (20–22), and BCG vaccination for tuberculosis (16). Timely completion of early childhood immunizations may decrease the risk of leukemia through general improvements in immune functioning (2, 4). Vaccination in childhood would also be consistent with higher levels of herd immunity (natural immunization), which may also reduce risk (7, 23). We observed a protective effect of MMR vaccination on childhood leukemia risk, but only among children immunized after 1 year of age, and odds ratios were only marginally significant (p < 0.10). Results persisted after adjustment for indicators of socioeconomic status, suggesting that control selection bias was not responsible for our findings. Any residual confounding by socioeconomic status is unlikely given that routine childhood immunizations are delivered universally under a publicly funded health-care system in Canada. However, the proportions of cases and controls receiving each of the three vaccines were not identical, which points to the possibility of exposure misclassification since MMR is administered as a combination vaccine. There were also a very small number of unvaccinated subjects, which further limits interpretation of our findings.



The cause of allergic diseases such as asthma involves several different factors, with environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors all contributing and possibly interacting.
Some parents have had concerns as to whether vaccines have been implicated in the rise of allergy disorders; however studies have not proven this.


National Centre of Immunisation and Research and Surveillance (NCIRS)

Vaccines asthma and allergies- fact sheet.

National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.  Leading research to understand, treat and prevent immunologic and allergy diseases; Home page Allergy and asthma page

Flu vaccine recommended for asthmatics.

The flu (influenza) vaccine is recommended for those with severe asthma to provide protection from flu. The flu virus can cause severe exacerbations of wheezing; about 10% of episodes of virus-induced wheezing are attributable to influenza. Reference; The Australian Immunisation Handbook 9th edition- Influenza chapter.


Page last updated: 04 Jul 2011