Inspection of the records of the Children’s Hospital for the past ten years has disclosed 15 instances in which children developed acute cerebral symptoms within a period of hours after the administration of pertussis vaccine. The children varied between 5 and 18 months in age and, in so far as it is possible to judge children of this age range, were developing normally according to histories supplied by their parents. None had convulsions previously.”

“Twelve of the children were boys and three were girls, a sex difference also encountered in relation to other substances, such as lead, causing gross injury to the developing nervous system. At inoculation time, the children varied in age between 5 and 18 months. Developmental data were obtained in detail on all but two of the children, whose mothers simply stated that they had developed normally. Reference to the case histories showed that such objective activities such as sitting, walking, and talking had appeared in many of the children prior to the inoculations; and the regressions or failure of further development occurred after the encephalopathies [Any disease or symptoms of disease referable to disorders of the brain] in several instances. In so far as it was possible to judge none of the children were defective prior to their acute illness.”

“In common with many other biologic materials used parenterally [not by mouth], an important risk of encephalopathy attends the use of prophylactic pertussis vaccine. The mechanism whereby the encephalopathy is produced is not elucidated by the present study. The universal use of such vaccine is warranted only if it can be shown to be effective in preventing encephalopathy or death from pertussis itself in large groups of children. If avoidance of the inconvenience of the average attack of pertussis is all that is expected, the risk seems considerable. Efforts to diminish the hazard by modification of the vaccine or new methods of administration seem indicated.”

Source: Randolph K. Byers, M.D. and Frederic C. Moll, M.D., Encephalopathies Following Prophylactic Pertussis Vaccine, Pediatrics, April 1948, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 437-456

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