In recent decades there has been an increase in the number of allergies in the general population. This has naturally led people to wonder what is causing the increase.
One of the many other things that have also increased since the second half of the 20th century is the number of vaccinations. This prompted scientists to examine whether the two might be in some way connected. To date, there is no evidence showing a link.
There was a study by Swedish doctors showing that children who went to anthroposophical schools (known as Steiner or Waldorf schools) were less prone to eczema. Vaccination rates are significantly lower in children whose families follow the anthroposophical philosophy, but these children are also exposed to fewer antibiotics. Organic farming is an important component of this way of life, and these children’s parents are much less likely than average to smoke.
A separate study by an American allergy specialist noted lower asthma and hay fever rates among children whose parents are against vaccination. The study did not establish a causal connection.
There are many other studies which argue against any connection. Doctors in the Netherlands evaluated all published scientific articles written between 1966 and 2003 and concluded that no increased allergy risk after immunisation has been established.
The reunification of Germany is sometimes seen as an informal – but extremely large – experiment in how immunisation policy can affect allergies. Immunisation rates were close to 100% in East Germany where vaccination was compulsory. Prior to reunification there were hardly any allergies.
After Germany was reunited, vaccination was no longer legally compulsory and the immunisation rate decreased. At the same time, allergies became more common. This would imply that while some aspect (or a combination of aspects) of modern living is responsible for higher allergy rates, vaccination is not part of the equation.
For more information, see ‘Vaccination – 20 Objections & Responses’, produced by the Robert Koch Institute and Paul Ehrlich Institute