The potential association between vaccination and autoimmune diseases has been largely questioned in the past few years, but this assumption has mostly been based on case reports. The available evidence derived from several negative epidemiological studies is reassuring and at least indicates that vaccines are not a major cause of autoimmune diseases. However, there are still uncertainties as to whether a susceptible subpopulation may be at a higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease without causing an overall increase in the disease incidence. Based on selected examples, this review highlights the difficulties in assessing this issue. We suggest that a potential link between vaccines and autoimmune diseases cannot be definitely ruled out and should be carefully explored during the development of new candidate vaccines.
Copyright John Libbey Eurotext 2003.