Kids Love Dr. Barton

Safety of Vaccines for Kids

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 09/10/2008

My recent interview on KSDK-TV news was far too brief to go into any detail regarding vaccines.  With the recent surge in news coverage on the safety of vaccines, I thought I’d expand a little on the topic. This will be a short series of blog entries that I hope will address questions you might have.

Vaccines really are one of medicine's most important contributions to public health. Second only to clean water, vaccines have saved an enormous number of lives. If they save lives, why are so many questions being raised?

The No. 1 reason is the accompanying rise in the number of our children with multiple forms of brain dysfunction. The rates of ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities and autism are on the rise. The rise appears to parallel the trend in mass vaccinations. If there is a link, several theories have been put forth to explain it.

The most well-known theory links these disabilities with MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Proposed by a physician in Great Britain and published in a British medical journal in the mid 1990s, this theory is based on finding antibodies to the vaccine type of measles in a number of his autistic patients. The physician claimed that was a link and there has been a great deal of misinformation ever since.

The scientific community responded by demonstrating in large-scale studies that this link could not possibly be true – the studies compared communities that had been vaccinated and those that had not. In both communities, the number of brain disorders was climbing at the same rate. The original author, in light of the weakness of his study and the strength of subsequent studies, retracted his article. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Some people are refusing to be vaccinated in Europe and the rates of measles have jumped markedly there.

A second popular theory blames thiomerosol, a mercury-containing preservative, for causing the brain damage. The theory goes like this: Since mercury is neurotoxic, it must be the source of brain damage in our little ones. Studies in California, the first state to mandate mercury-free vaccine, have shown that the incidence of brain disorders continued to rise despite the mercury-free inoculation.

 The CDC and FDA monitor the safety of our vaccine supply. Vaccines that show some significant level of harm are taken out of circulation. The smallpox vaccine is not publicly available. The first vaccine for rotavirus was pulled from the market. Certain vaccines are only recommended for very high-risk patients. It is fairly clear that our current vaccine supply is as safe as is possible and is very life saving. I’ll write more about that in my next post.


Dr. Douglas Barton is a pediatrician with SSM Medical Group in Lake Saint Louis and Warrenton.


Copyright © 2011 Douglas Barton, M.D. • Website designed by