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Vaccines: A Shot In The Dark?

What's a parent to do? Childhood vaccines have spared the world a lot of grief, illness, and death. Unfortunately, you still hear stories of children having bad reactions to vaccines. This was the topic of a recent congressional hearing -- one that was chaired, not coincidentally -- by a congressman whose two grandchildren are among the estimated 11,000 a year who get their shots, and then get fevers or perhaps worse.

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It doesn't help that a new vaccine for babies, one developed against rotavirus, is now being investigated for a possible link to bowl obstructions. And then there's the polio vaccine, one of the major medical breakthroughs of the century. So successful, in fact, that bad reactions to one form of the live polio vaccine became a leading cause of polio, causing about eight cases a year.

For the vast majority, baby shots do protect children against polio, tetanus, measles, meningitis and much more. But it's worth noting that America's children now get an average of 21 vaccinations by the time they're out of kindergarten, double the number of shots given just a decade ago. It's natural for parents to wonder if their children could be among the few that are harmed. Is that shot in the arm a shot in the dark? U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher put it this way to Congress: "Vaccines are among the 20th century's most successful and cost-effective public health tools for preventing disease, disability, and death."

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