Vaccines can cause certain side effects, but serious ones appear to be very rare, and there's no link with autism and Type 1 diabetes, the Institute of Medicine says in the first comprehensive safety review in 17 years.
The report released Thursday isn't aimed at nervous parents. And the side effects it lists as proven are some that doctors long have known about, such as fever-caused seizures and occasional brain inflammation.
Instead, the review comes at the request of the government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which pays damages to people who are injured by vaccines. Federal law requires this type of independent review as officials update side effects on their list to be sure they agree with the latest science.
"Vaccines are important tools in preventing serious infectious disease across the life span, from infancy through adulthood. All health care interventions, however, carry the possibility of risk, and vaccines are no exception," said pediatrician and bioethicist Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University, who headed the institute panel.
Still, the report stresses that vaccines generally are safe, and it may help doctors address worries from a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.
"I am hopeful that it will allay some people's concerns," Clayton said.
The review echoed numerous other scientific reports that dismiss an autism link.
But it found convincing evidence of some side effects, including the following:
*Fever-triggered seizures, which seldom cause long-term consequences, from the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
*MMR also can cause a rare form of brain inflammation in some people with immune problems.
*The varicella vaccine against chicken pox sometimes triggers that viral infection, resulting in widespread chicken pox or a painful relative called shingles. It also occasionally can lead to pneumonia, hepatitis or meningitis.
There's suggestive evidence but not proof of a few other side effects, including anaphylaxis from the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine and short-term joint pain in some women and children from the MMR vaccine.
The report cleared flu shots of blame for two long-suspected side effects: Bell's palsy and worsening of asthma.