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How safe are vaccines?


5 Star

How safe are vaccines?

Our Review Summary

This magazine cover story on vaccinations attempted to cover a lot of ground around the issues surrounding the current recommended childhood immunization schedule. 

The story pointed out that just because two things appear to be associated (i.e. getting a first tooth and getting a vaccine) does not mean that one causes the other.  It would have been helpful to expand on this point.  The story also provided the rationale used by people who have an idea about some aspect of biology  (i.e. the immune system) without grounding in the evidence for their notion. Providing additional coverage about this may also have been useful.

Although a solid report, it could have been improved: 

  • The story points up the choices between risks and benefits without including sufficient information for readers to have some sense of the size of either.  Including information more information about these would have greatly improved the usefulness of this story.
  • While the story did note a lack of scientific evidence for a link between vaccines and autism, the issue is given valuable print space that could have been devoted to more important issues.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story included estimated cost savings that might result from full vaccination of all children born in a given year.  It did not, however, mention the costs of providing this full set of vaccinations either per person or for all the children in a given birth year cohort.  

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Although the story included a table detailing that seeming abundance of recommended vaccinations for children to receive along with the disease(s) against which they offer protection, the story did not provide much information about the risks associated with contracting these illness and so it was a little difficult to appreciate the magnitude of benefit (i.e. disease avoidance) one might expect.  Further, although the story did mention that many people today do not have first hand knowledge of these diseases, because the story did not include information about the consequences of contracting most of the diseases mentioned, it made it difficult to appreciate the benefit of treatment. Nonetheless, because the story was reasonably well-balanced overall, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.


Lastly – the story neglected to detail the length of time the benefit from these vaccines could be expected to persist. 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The harms associated with lack of vaccination (need for emergency medical attention, brain damage, death) for the individual as well as the potential for harm to befall fellow citizens with some degree of immune compromise was mentioned.

The story was lacking in information about the documented harms associated with the various vaccines listed as part of the recommended childhood immunization schedule. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story cited data compiled by the CDC about the prevalence of measles before and after the introduction of the measles vaccine. And while the source for some of the other data quoted in the story (e.g. % of children starting school that are completely up to date on their vacations) was less clear, the information about lack of persuasive link between vaccination and autism was referenced.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No overt disease mongering although the continued drum beat about autism despite all the evidence is disconcerting.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story contained a lot of information, some of which was well documented.  In addition, there were good interviews with clinicians whose work involves vaccination as well as conversations with parents of children who appear to have been adversely affected either by vaccination or from its avoidance.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The treatment options – vaccination or not, as well as picking and choosing among the immunizations offered were discussed.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story accurately portrayed the ready availability of vaccines. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story appeared to appropriately represent the novelty of both the treatment and withholding the treatment.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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