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A Family Doctor Responds to New Study on Vaccines and Aluminum

Last Updated October 2022 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Erin Corriveau, MD, MPH

A new study released in late September shows a possible association between exposure to aluminum found in some childhood vaccinations and the development of persistent asthma in young children.

A study like this may cause parents to have questions about routine vaccinations for their children. Here’s what you need to know about the study, which is backed up by information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and by family doctors.

What does this study mean for my child?

While this is a study of interest, don’t be alarmed. This single observational study does not show that aluminum in some childhood vaccines causes asthma. Rather, this study shows an association, which means the outcome could also be due to other factors, or to coincidence. The findings give researchers an important topic to study further. This study is only a first step.

Vaccine safety is a top priority, and we take it very seriously. All concerns about vaccines deserve more analysis. The CDC is already working on additional research.

Why is aluminum part of vaccines?

Small amounts of aluminum are added to some vaccines to help the body build stronger immunity. “Aluminum-containing adjuvants” are vaccine ingredients that have been safely used in vaccines since the 1930s. Aluminum adjuvants aren’t in every vaccine. The CDC has more information on vaccine ingredients.

What has the CDC said about the study?

The CDC and the researchers who worked on the study agree that additional research is needed. This will help better understand whether or not this possible association is actually due to aluminum or to other factors. Further study will also help determine what other causes might contribute to children developing asthma.

While the CDC works on this additional research, we know it is safe to keep up with routine vaccinations, as well as COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. This is because we have years of data that show these vaccines prevent disease in young children.

Are there are other reasons my child could develop asthma?

Yes. The study didn’t research other factors that could increase a child’s risk for asthma. This includes a family history of asthma, secondhand smoke exposure, dietary or environmental exposure to aluminum or other contaminants in the home or atmosphere, or social factors that may contribute to poor health — all of which can increase a child’s risk of developing asthma early in life.

Are vaccines still considered safe?

Yes. Vaccines are our best disease prevention tool. They build up protection against diseases your child may be exposed to at school or in the community. They prevent severe infection and reduce your child’s risk of hospitalization. Vaccines also prevent disease from spreading throughout your community.

Should I delay getting my child getting vaccinated until we know more?

No. You shouldn’t delay care that protects your child from getting sick. Though the information can be overwhelming, we know very clearly that vaccines protect children against potentially deadly diseases. If we stop vaccinating our children, diseases like whooping cough, measles, mumps and polio will come back, and create a risk for new epidemics.

Years of research, testing and monitoring show vaccines are safe and effective. Even after recognizing the impact of this new data, we still deeply believe in the safety of the current childhood vaccine schedule. We feel confident this is safe because the CDC is not changing the vaccine schedule at this time. We continue to strongly recommend getting your child vaccinated.

Talk with your family doctor if you have questions about the safety of vaccines,

What’s being done to make sure vaccines are safe for my child?

The CDC is constantly monitoring the safety of vaccines and will quickly respond to safety concerns, including sharing information with the public. We trust the rigorous process required for approval of all vaccines, and we expect more research. In the meantime, we are confident in recommending childhood vaccines to our patients.

The CDC, FDA and other agencies are discussing additional studies that can help investigate the risk of aluminum exposure from routine childhood vaccines. In the meantime, the CDC is not changing the current routine childhood vaccination recommendations.

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