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Is it true that a vaccine can cause the disease it was meant to protect against?

The short answer is yes. However, whether the vaccine you’re wondering about can cause the disease it’s designed to protect against depends on exactly what type of vaccine it is. Attenuated vaccines are vaccines that have been created from live viruses and have been altered in a lab to be a very much weaker version of the disease in question. Several vaccines used for children, including the MMR, chicken pox, flu and rotavirus vaccines are attenuated vaccines. Usually, unless the person receiving an attenuated vaccine has a weakened immune system, they will not contract the disease, or they will contract a very mild case of it.

Inactivated vaccines are also known as killed vaccines, and as the name suggests, they are made from viruses that have been killed in a laboratory. You can’t get sick from them, but they are still enough to trigger your bodies immune system into creating antibodies. Subunit, fractional or component vaccines are made from only a portion of the bacteria or virus. Hib, pneumococcal and Hepatitis A and B vaccines are these types of vaccine, and they are unable to cause disease.

Lastly, there are toxoid vaccines, which don’t contain any of the virus or bacteria they are designed to kill, such as the DtaP vaccine. Again, these types of vaccine cannot cause disease.

As you can see, there are only a few vaccines with the potential to cause illness, and those will be mild in a healthy person. If you are in doubt, however, it’s best to confirm this with your doctor.

More questions

There are very specific guidelines when it comes to safely administering over the counter medications to babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
A cold bath can actually do more harm than good to a feverish child.
Many children have a mild reaction to the MMR vaccine – it’s not usually full-blown measles though, and it’s usually not serious. There are a few things to watch out for though...
Injections are necessary - the thing is to just have them and then get on with it. If needs be, have your child’s favourite toy or something else that will distract him while he has his shot.
Antibiotics do not kill viruses, such as the common cold, and by over using antibiotics, particularly when they aren’t necessary, you are weakening your child's future defences! 
In general, chewable medicines are only designed for children two years and older, who are adept at eating solid foods.
Giving any child aspirin could contribute to them getting a serious illness known as Reye’s Syndrome.
As a parent you should understand the risks associated with various different types of medication
Both ibuprofen and paracetamol are effective pain and fever treatment options for babies and children.
Choosing between a vaporiser and a humidifier is a personal choice but both help to make children feel better

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