"Nasty ingredients" in vaccines?

On Friday it'll be 18 years to the day since Wakefield et al. published their now-retracted paper which sparked the MMR scandal.

Entirely coincidentally, we've just put together some new information about what goes into your vaccines - with details of the ones the most commonly cause concern. It tackles:

- the "live" vaccine issue

- thiomersal and mercury

- gelatin

- eggs

- adjuvants

- formaldehyde

- antibiotics

- human serum albumin

You can read our vaccine ingredients page here: nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinati...

We hope it'll help dispel some of the worries that people may have about vaccines.

18 Replies

  • Have you seen the Meryl Streep film about epilepsy; 'First do no Harm'? That demonstrates nicely the effects of formaldehyde, a well-intentioned medication that has potentially devastating side-effects considering individual differences in tolerance. It also shows how powerful a ketogenic diet can be; more effective than the medications.

    With regard to the MMR vaccine, most health professionals deliberately ignore the fact that it is a cost-cutting exercise. The uptake of the individual vaccines was excellent, and the diseases were very well controlled before the combined vaccine was introduced.

  • My grandson has epilepsy and is autistic. I watched this film and apparently they used the ketogenic diet for children who didn't respond to drugs. However it is a very strict diet that has to be monitored by health professionals and it would be hard to do in the UK. I would agree with you about vaccines. My daughters had single vaccines in the seventies with the exception of the measles vaccine. The doctor refused to give them it as they both had eczema. They both caught the measles with no problems. Would doctors today be allowed to show such discrimination.

  • "With regard to the MMR vaccine, most health professionals deliberately ignore the fact that it is a cost-cutting exercise. The uptake of the individual vaccines was excellent, and the diseases were very well controlled before the combined vaccine was introduced"

    Believe it or not, there is no big conspiracy among the UK government to save money by putting patients lives at risk. It just simply isn't true.

    "In August 1999, the UK government banned the routine use of separate measles and mumps vaccines for several reasons. First, no solid evidence supports the idea that using separate vaccines is any safer than using MMR. Second, giving separate doses leaves children unprotected for a longer period. Third, to be successful, national vaccination programs must minimize the number of vaccinations given. If separate measles and mumps injections were given, many children would inevitably miss one or more vaccinations, leaving them open to infection"

    Can I guess that you are a Daily Mail or similar reader, and have no background whatsoever in science?


    BSc Biomedical Science

  • You can guess whatever you like; that's part of having freedom of speech. However, that would be wrong, and suggests you see yourself coming from a superior position; hard to be open minded and impartial when you do that, isn't it?

    When I started working for the NHS I was reminded to have respect for my profession and colleagues; some people seem to adopt this ethos as a need to 'keep the faith'.

  • Excellent work in countering the many myths and legends going around about vaccines. I will use this item as a reference the next time I encounter any anti-vax conspiracy nonsense.

  • Ketogenic diets for the control of epilepsy in children is seen as only where other, more effective remedies are a problem for the particular individual. It is also important to note that this is not a case of just picking up a book of Atkins, but it highly specialised and must be supervised by an epilepsy professional. It is worth reading what the Epilepsy Society say on the matter:


    And with regard to MMR, health professionals do not ignore anything. The uptake of three separate was not as good as with MMR - with six injections with the singles method, take up was often uneven, the period to immunisation is longer and the child has to suffer more injections.

    There are good authoritative articles here:


    and here:


    Rob, interesting article - especially the pork gelatin. The further reading about how it effects (or rather doesn't) Muslims and Jews was very interesting.

  • As usual, the motto is `the dose makes the poison', something not understood by opponents of vaccination. Thanks, this is a very helpful review, but either won't be read by the anti-vaxers, or will be dismissed by them because you are allegedly in the pay of Big Pharma!

  • However, there are a lot of people that fall in the "not sure" camp, and these sorts of articles are very helpful there.

  • Absolutely. I don't write my blog for quacks, but for floating voters. majikthyse.wordpress.com/

  • Perhaps some of the concerns with vaccination are not the individual vaccines themselves, but the clinical practice of administering so many together in very young babies. The immune system is designed to mount a response to a challenge, and of course vaccine protects against many dread diseases; vaccination simulates the natural events of exposure and development of immune 'memory cells' that can produce antibodies later on if called upon. But I do question sometimes whether we are potentially over-challenging a naïve immune system by giving five, or more, at once.

    I believe we also have to look more critically and objectively at the data on flu vaccination, as current policy seems driven more by dogma and industry persuasion than by the actual benefits.

  • I think the amount we give children probably pales in comparison with what they get thrown at them in the queue at tescos. The human is constantly bombarded with bugs. It is pretty amazing we make it past teenage hood when you look at everything we meet (and carry around).

    We still need to be careful about how much and how often we vaccinate - especially as it can be traumatising for the youngens!

    Which is just one reason why combination vaccines have been of benefit (and would have been more so without an idiot doctor and some even more idiotic newspapers)

  • At the risk of blowing my own horn, I wrote a brief blog post on this issue last year which tries to put into perspective the immune assault presented by vaccines, compared to the immune challenges we all face every day. Maybe it will reassure you a little: tinyurl.com/psr5b93

  • There is a considerable difference between natural exposure to pathogens - as you say in the real world - and the practice of injecting a cocktail of biomarkers of pathogens directly into the body. Most of the pathogens naturally encountered by young children are inhaled or they are ingested orally after being picked up on the hands, and they would be extremely unlucky to be infected with five or even seven different infections all at once. In normal exposure to childhood infections, the mucosa of the airway and the gut have immune defences that first pick up and then process the invading microbes, this leads to developing some immunity. As you can imagine this is a different challenge than injecting a very large number of different germs all at the same time.

    I'm not speaking out against vaccination - as a clinical practitioner I was pleased to have Hep B vaccination to protect me from bloodborne infections, and having lived and worked overseas I have been vaccinated against just about everything - but the practice of multiple vaccines in the very young infant should be revisited. And the data from industry very carefully scrutinised.

  • I'm sorry, I'm slightly confused by your conclusion at the end. The practice of multiple vaccines HAS been revisited, and there is overwhelming evidence to support it's safety. The vaccine is safe, period. I understand your concerns on the face of it, but if you consider radiotherapy or chemotherapy, could you not apply the same argument? How can something so damaging be so effective? But the evidence is there in black and white.


    BSc Biomedical Science

  • Just a quick note to say that this page deals briefly with the overloaded immune system nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinati... and for more on some of the "seeds of doubt" questions, we have this: nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinati...

  • RobFinch, could you check this section for consistency? It seems contradictory to me (1st and final paras):

    Eggs in vaccines

    Two vaccines in the UK routine schedule contain small amounts of egg – MMR vaccine and flu vaccine.

    Flu vaccine is grown on hens’ eggs and is capable of triggering an allergic reaction. Children and adults with egg allergy are therefore advised to have an alternative such as an egg-free inactivated flu vaccine.

    MMR vaccine is grown on cells from chick embryos, which isn’t the same as chicken eggs and therefore doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction. Children and adults with severe egg allergy can safely receive the MMR vaccine.

  • Sorry not to have seen this earlier, but I have asked the relevant editor to look into it. We'll look to clarify it.

  • Great post, and really useful. I wrote a blog post recently in response to some comments on one of the parent blogging websites. There were a lot of people who were generally in favour of vaccination and had vaccinated their kids but were still uncertain and worried about additives in vaccines. I'll add a link to this piece.

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