Volume 115, Issue 4, April 2005, Pages 737-744
Asthma diagnosis and treatment
The relationship between vaccine refusal and self-report of atopic disease in children
Rachel Enriquez PhD, Whitney Addington MD, Faith Davis PhD, Sally Freels PhD, C. Lucy Park MD, Ronald C. Hershow MD, MPH and Victoria Persky MD
From the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville
Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London
Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
In the last 3 decades, there has been an unexplained increase in the prevalence of asthma and hay fever.
We sought to determine whether there is an association between childhood vaccination and atopic diseases, and we assessed the self-reported prevalence of atopic diseases in a population that included a large number of families not vaccinating their children.
Surveys were mailed to 2964 member households of the National Vaccine Information Center, which represents people concerned about vaccine safety, to ascertain vaccination and atopic disease status.
The data included 515 never vaccinated, 423 partially vaccinated, and 239 completely vaccinated children. In multiple regression analyses there were significant (P < .0005) and dose-dependent negative relationships between vaccination refusal and self-reported asthma or hay fever only in children with no family history of the condition and, for asthma, in children with no exposure to antibiotics during infancy. Vaccination refusal was also significantly (P < .005) and negatively associated with self-reported eczema and current wheeze. A sensitivity analysis indicated that substantial biases would be required to overturn the observed associations.
Parents who refuse vaccinations reported less asthma and allergies in their unvaccinated children. Although this relationship was independent of measured confounders, it could be due to differences in other unmeasured lifestyle factors or systematic bias. Further research is needed to verify these results and investigate which exposures are driving the associations between vaccination refusal and allergic disease. The known benefits of vaccination currently outweigh the unproved risk of allergic disease.
Supported by the Sprague Institute of Chicago.
Reprint requests: Rachel Enriquez, PhD,
Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine,
T- 1218 Medical Center North,
1161 21st Ave South, Nashville, TN 37232-2650.