The WHO Vaccine Safety Advisory Committee has established criteria to allow an objective definition of associations between vaccination and adverse reactions. They also apply to autoimmunity problems.
The assessment of autoimmune events should be accurate, based on rigorous analytical methods and sufficient data. It may be a coincidence that a side effect appears soon after a vaccination.
Such undesirable events should be considered as side effects only if a significant association is demonstrated by epidemiological studies on different populations, in order to verify the hypotheses put forward on the basis of isolated cases.
There are only 3 rare autoimmune diseases for which an association with vaccines has been shown:
Guillain-Barré syndrome (neuropathy) which is a known complication of influenza, and can occur exceptionally after vaccination against influenza.
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (low blood platelets) which is a fairly common complication of measles and rubella, exceptionally occurring after measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination.
Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by an autoimmune attack of hypothalamic neurons, which was significantly associated with the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic, as a result of viral infection or vaccination with the Pandemrix vaccine.
Otherwise, theories have circulated and still circulate on the long-term effects of vaccines, especially on the vaccines against hepatitis B and measles. All of these claims have been invalidated by numerous studies.
During the measles epidemics that erupted as a result of these anti-vaccine campaigns, serious complications and children deaths have been observed. This is unacceptable because these tragedies could have been avoided by vaccination.
Vaccination is one of the major advances of our time, which prevents 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year. It has eradicated deadly and crippling diseases such as polio and smallpox. These are verifiable facts against which unconfirmed hypotheses are set, that seriously undermine the eradication of diseases and epidemics.
Wraith, D.C., Goldman, M., Lambert, P.H. Vaccination and autoimmune disease: what is the evidence ? Lancet 362, 1659-1666 (2003).
Vellozzi, C., Iqbal, S., Broder, K. Guillain-Barré syndrome, influenza, and influenza vaccination: the epidemiologic evidence. Clinical Infectious diseases 58, 1149-1155 (2014).
Cecinati, V., Principi, N., Brescia, L., et al. Vaccine administration and the development of thrombocytopenic purpura in children. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 9, 1158-1162 (2013).
Partinen, M., Rahbek Kornum, B., Plazzi, G., et al. Narcolepsy as an autoimmune disease: the role of H1N1 infection and vaccination. Lancet Neurology 13, 600-613 (2014).