Serious vaccine risks compared to serious disease risks in the U.S. — MMR and DTaP vaccines

(Note: Numbers may vary among sources for reasons such as the time period and location of the collected data, reported vs. estimated or suspected cases, averages vs. maximums, etc.)


  • High fever and rash: There were 3-4 million total estimated cases per year before the vaccine, with more than 500,000 reported cases.
  • Hospitalizations: 48,000 on average per year before the vaccine. A 1989-91 US measles outbreak of 55,000 cases resulted in 20% hospitalization.
  • Deaths: 1 or 2 per 1000 reported cases (.1% to.2%), even with modern health care.
  • Pneumonia: as many as 1 in 20 reported cases (average 6%), the most common cause of measles-related deaths in young children.
  • Acute encephalitis: Occurs in 1/1,000 reported measles cases (.1%). Causes brain swelling; can lead to convulsions (.7%), coma, neurological damage (25%), death (15%), deafness.
  • Diarrhea: 8% of reported cases.
  • Ear infections: 7% of reported cases. Can cause permanent hearing loss.
  • Pregnancy risks: increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth, or low birth weight.
  • SSPE – “subacute sclerosing panencephalitis” – occurs in 5 to 10/million reported cases; very rare but fatal usually within 1-2 years, progressively worsening mental and muscle deterioration, appears from 1 mth. to 27 years (average 7 years)  after measles infection.


  • Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS): Conservative estimates report 25% of rubella cases, but probably 50-90% result in congenital rubella syndrome if a woman becomes infected early in pregnancy.  Causes miscarriages, stillborn, neonatal deaths, and serious permanent birth defects. In 1964-65, before the vaccine, the US reported 20,000 CRS cases.


“Mumps can be a mild disease, but it is often quite uncomfortable and complications are not rare. These include meningitis; testicular inflammation in males who have reached puberty, among whom about half experience some degree of testicular atrophy; inflammation of the ovaries or breasts in females who have reached puberty; and permanent deafness in one or both ears. Before the development of a mumps vaccine, the disease was one of the major causes of deafness in children. Some research also suggests an increase in miscarriages among pregnant women who are infected with mumps during their first trimester” (The History of Vaccines).

MMR  (measles, mumps, rubella) VACCINE RISKS 

MMR vaccination moderate problems

  • Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)  ****  [Note: febrile seizure risk is much higher with measles infection.]
  • Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
  • Thrombocytopenia: temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses).  [Note: thrombocytopenia risk  is at least 10 times higher with measles or rubella infection.]

MMR vaccination severe problems (Very Rare)

  • Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)

The following severe problems have been known to occur after a child gets MMR vaccine. But this happens so rarely, experts cannot be sure whether they are caused by the vaccine or not. (bold mine) SEE FOOTNOTE*

  • Deafness
  • Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
  • Permanent brain damage


  • Breathing problems, paralysis, kidney, heart and nerve damage; even with treatment, recovery can be slow.
  • Death: 1 in 20


  • Jaw cramping (“lockjaw”) and trouble swallowing
  • Sudden, painful involuntary muscle tightening – often in the stomach (muscle spasms)
  • Jerking or staring (seizures)
  • Fever and sweating
  • High blood pressure and fast heart rate
  • Uncontrolled/involuntary muscular contraction of the vocal cords (laryngospasm)
  • Bone fracture
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumonia
  • Breathing difficulty, possibly leading to death.
  • Death: 10-20% of cases are fatal.


  • Pneumonia: 1 in 8
  • Encephalitis: 1 in 20
  • Death: 1 in 1,500

DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis) VACCINE RISK  **

 Moderate Problems (Uncommon)

  • Temporary seizure (jerking or staring): about 1 child out of 14,000 **
  • Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more: up to about 1 child out of 1,000.
  • High fever, 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher: about 1 child out of 16,000.

Severe Problems (Very Rare)

  • Serious allergic reaction: less than 1 out of a million doses.

The following severe problems have been reported after DTaP vaccine. These are so rare it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine. (bold mine) SEE FOOTNOTE*

  • Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
  • Permanent brain damage.

* Footnote:  These are some very scary disorders but with an important caveat that these events are so rare that “it’s hard to tell” or  “experts cannot be sure” that the vaccine caused these disorders.   I fear that some people might misinterpret these statements; afterall, they are included on a page about  “side-effects.”   I do believe the CDC’s intent here is actually to reassure the public and that the emphasis should be on the rarity of these events and the inability of these events to show themselves to be anything but a temporal (time-related, coincidental) relationship to vaccines when analyzed.

** CDC’s web page on Febrile Seizures reports there is no added febrile (fever related) seizure risk with the DTaP vaccine.  There may be a slight added febrile seizure risk with the MMR vaccine.  They say febrile seizures are more common among children than many realize and usually aren’t dangerous or indicative of a permanent problem. Here is another CDC page about febrile seizures after influenza and other vaccines.

Main source:  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This entry was posted in Counter arguments to vaccine-critics, Immunizations. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Serious vaccine risks compared to serious disease risks in the U.S. — MMR and DTaP vaccines

  1. Pingback: Do the DTwP and MMR vaccines cause encephalopathy? | Thinking it out

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