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Safety of combination vaccines: perception versus reality


The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: November 2001 - Volume 20 - Issue 11 - p S40-S44

Background. Combination vaccines contain multiple antigens to protect against several diseases simultaneously and have simplified the delivery of childhood immunizations. Children are healthier today because of the use of combination vaccines, and the United States is benefiting from record low numbers of vaccine-preventable diseases. Despite obvious benefits, concerns and misconceptions exist regarding the safety and efficacy of combination vaccines.

Methods. A review of the pediatric literature to dispel the common misperceptions and potential barriers to combining vaccines.

Results. Assurance that combination vaccines approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration undergo extensive testing will help to alleviate concerns regarding safety and efficacy of combination vaccines. Food and Drug Administration standards are rigorous and require that combination vaccines be as safe and effective as each component of the vaccine administered separately. Combination vaccines have been available for >50 years, and lessons learned during this time are continuously applied to the development and use of new products.

Conclusions. Children will benefit from new combination vaccines because fewer injections will be required to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases, allowing for the introduction of new vaccines into the immunization schedule and prevention of additional diseases.

From the Institute for Vaccine Safety, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

Address for reprints: Neal A. Halsey, M.D., Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room 5515, Baltimore, MD 21205. Fax 410-502-6733; E-mail

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.