Unintended Consequences of Mass Vaccination

Unintended Consequences of Mass Vaccination

(See also: Community Immunity?)


For years, information has circulated highlighting the reduction in disease incidence after the introduction of vaccines. It is important to understand the data on disease reduction in the context of overall real world outcomes.

Data on disease reduction due to vaccination do not consider:

  • unintended consequences of a vaccination program;
  • changes in diagnostic criteria;
  • practitioner-bias against diagnosing the disease in a vaccinated individual; and
  • the human and financial burden of adverse reactions to vaccines.

Unintended consequences and non-specific effects may outweigh benefits.

Vaccine-targeted strains can mutate or be replaced by non-vaccine strains. Examples:

HPV: As vaccine-strain infections have declined, non-vaccine strain infections have increased. It is unknown the impact these other strains will have on cancer rates.1, 2 See also our HPV page.

HIB: Type replacement is also an issue with the Hib vaccine: “Following routine childhood vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) disease in Brazil in 1999, passive laboratory surveillance reported increasing numbers of non-b serotypes and nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHi) from meningitis cases.”3

PNEUMOCOCCUS: In a study at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Utah, isolates of S. pneumoniae from children with invasive pneumococcal disease.  While PCV7 serogroups decreased during that time, non-PCV serogroups increased.  Diseases from the non-PCV groups in the community were very severe, and there was a higher rate of death in the non-PCV7 strains that occurred.5

POLIO: In India, the incidence of acute flaccid paralysis has risen in direct proportion to the rate at which polio has been reduced.6

Other infections may increase as the vaccine-targeted infection decreases.  Overall disease burden may not be reduced. Example:

FLU:  A recent study has shown increased risk of non-influenza respiratory virus infections associated with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine.7

See also our Flu page.

Widespread use of the vaccine can cause an increase in a more serious form of the infection. Example:

CHICKENPOX:  Other countries have decided against adding the chicken pox vaccine to the schedule because of its contribution to the increased rate of shingles, which is more dangerous and more expensive to treat. “No re-calculation of the cost to society due to morbidity associated with shingles effecting lost work days has, to our knowledge, been considered in rendering public health policy on chicken pox vaccination.”8

Due to waning nature of vaccine-induced immunity, even those vaccines that are believed to prevent transmission of infection from person to person can still fail to prevent outbreaks in communities with high vaccination compliance, leaving the vulnerable unprotected. Example:

MMR: Outbreaks of measles in Quebec, Canada and China have occurred even when vaccination compliance was in the highest bracket (95-97% or even 99%).10 Waning vaccine-induced immunity and the fraction of the population called “low vaccine responders” are driving the “measles paradox” that the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gregory Poland describes: “The apparent paradox is that as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons.”  As naturally immune populations age and decline, and society moves into an era of artificial immunization for all age groups, the limitations of the MMR are being revealed. Without the robust naturally acquired immunity that the previous generation of adults (and more importantly mothers) possessed, the apparent initial success of the measles vaccination has led to the loss of maternal immunity, meaning infants are now susceptible to measles at an age when it is more dangerous for them to get it.

Changes in diagnostic criteria and the renaming of diseases artificially deflate the numbers of reported cases of a particular disease following an introduction of a vaccine. Example:

POLIO:  Claims about the reduction in polio cases do not account for changes in diagnostic criteria after the introduction of the polio vaccine. Many patients who would have been diagnosed with polio in the pre-vaccine years were diagnosed with “aseptic meningitis” after the vaccine was introduced because of the newly increased length of time a patient would need to be paralyzed in order to be diagnosed with polio. As polio cases went down, aseptic meningitis cases went up.  There was no reduction in disease, but simply a change in diagnosing and naming the disease, which resulted in the appearance of a precipitous drop in polio cases.12, 13

Practitioner-bias against diagnosing the disease in a vaccinated individual.

This is a dangerous situation. When doctors refuse to believe a patient could actually have the disease he or she has been vaccinated for, a failure to provide proper treatment can put the patient at risk, or a failure to quarantine can put others at risk.14

The financial and human burden of adverse events and vaccine injury.

Vaccine adverse events are grossly underreported, according to the CDC, because the adverse event reporting system is passive and unenforced. Most adverse events are not counted and not studied. As a consequence, the burden of vaccine injury may outweigh any perceived benefits of using the vaccine. When the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act removed all liability from vaccine manufacturers and providers for any injury or deaths caused by their vaccines, the Department of Health and Human Services was given virtually all responsibility for vaccine safety. HHS has failed in its safety obligations as outlined in the 1986 Act regarding:

  • Deficiencies in the Pre-Licensure Safety Review of Pediatric Vaccines
  • Post-Licensure Surveillance of Vaccine Adverse Events
  • Identifying What Injuries Are Caused by Vaccines
  • Identifying Which Children are Susceptible to Vaccine Injury 15

Until the above safety issues are resolved, there is no way to quantify the human burden of adverse events and vaccine injury.

These examples represent just a fraction of vaccination issues that are not incorporated into vaccine policies. It is not enough for public health authorities to look only at the reduction in reported cases of the so-called vaccine-preventible diseases (VPDs); they must also consider the unintended consequences of increased burden of other infections, changes in diagnostic criteria following vaccine introduction, a bias against diagnosing a vaccinated individual with a VPD, and the burden of adverse reactions and vaccine injury.

Other important issues include the absence of long-term double-blind placebo-controlled studies with adequate statistical power to rule in or rule out causal relationships between vaccines and chronic childhood illnesses, disregard for CDC and drug company whistleblower testimonies alleging scientific misconduct in vaccine-related studies, and the removal of safety incentive by the 1986 NCVIA.

In order to justify the use of a specific vaccine or vaccination program, there must be a net benefit – a clear reduction in overall human suffering and monetary cost. Our government regulatory agencies are heavily financially invested in promoting vaccines to the greatest extent possible, and Health and Human Services has failed to do the vaccine safety studies it was required to do by law. It is up to the public to look deeper at the statistics and consider whether or not the benefits outweigh the full impact and risks.

For more information, please see Community Immunity? and explore this website.


  1. Fischer, Sonja, et al. “Shift in prevalence of HPV types in cervical cytology specimens in the era of HPV vaccination.” Oncology Letters, D.A. Spandidos, July 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4907297/.
  2. “Comparison of HPV prevalence between HPV-Vaccinated and non-Vaccinated young adult women (20–26 years).” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21645515.2015
  3. Zanella, R C, et al. “Changes in serotype distribution of Haemophilus influenzae meningitis isolates identified through laboratory-Based surveillance following routine childhood vaccination against H. influenzae type b in Brazil.” Vaccine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Nov. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21945960/
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/maso/facm/pdfs/BSCOID/2013121112_BSCOID_Minutes.pdf
  5. Byington, C L, et al. “Temporal trends of invasive disease due to Streptococcus pneumoniae among children in the intermountain west: emergence of nonvaccine serogroups.” Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15937758.
  6. Vashisht, Neetu, et al. “Trends in Nonpolio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Incidence in India 2000 to 2013.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Feb. 2015, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/Supplement_1/S16.2.
  7. Cowling, Benjamin J., et al. “Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine.” Clinical Infectious Diseases: An Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Oxford University Press, 15 June 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404712/.
  8. Goldman, G.S., and P.G. King. “Review of the United States universal varicella vaccination program: Herpes zoster incidence rates, cost-Effectiveness, and vaccine efficacy based primarily on the Antelope Valley Varicella Active Surveillance Project data.” Vaccine, Elsevier Science, 25 Mar. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3759842/.
  9. Althouse, Benjamin M., and Samuel V. Scarpino. “Asymptomatic transmission and the resurgence of Bordetella pertussis.” BMC Medicine, BioMed Central, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482312/.
  10. “Failure to Reach the Goal of Measles Elimination: Apparent Paradox of Measles Infections in Immunized Persons.” (Arch Intern Med 154:1815-1820)
  11. “In addition, measles susceptibility of infants younger than 1 year of age may have increased. During the 1989–1991 measles resurgence, incidence rates for infants were more than twice as high as those in any other age group. The mothers of many infants who developed measles were young, and their measles immunity was most often due to vaccination rather than infection with wild virus. As a result, a smaller amount of antibody was transferred across the placenta to the fetus, compared with antibody transfer from mothers who had higher antibody titers resulting from wild-virus infection. The lower quantity of antibody resulted in immunity that waned more rapidly, making infants susceptible at a younger age than in the past.” https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/meas.pdf
  12. The Truth About the Polio Vaccines, Chicago Sunday Tribune, March 5, 1961.
  13. https://vaccination-information-portal.com/wp-content/uploads/participants-database/ratner_1960.pdf
  14. Serres, Gaston De, et al. “Largest Measles Epidemic in North America in a Decade-Quebec, Canada, 2011: Contribution of Susceptibility, Serendipity, and Superspreading Events | The Journal of Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 21 Dec. 2012, academic.oup.com/jid/article/207/6/990/898747.
  15. ICAN notice to HHS http://icandecide.com/white-papers/ICAN-HHS-Notice.pdf