Kate Shemirani makes several false claims about childhood vaccines

27 February 2023
What was claimed

Children can now expect to receive almost 100 vaccines on the recommended schedule.

Our verdict

This is not correct. By our count, children in the UK would be offered a maximum of 40 doses by the age of 17.

What was claimed

No vaccine has ever been proven safe.

Our verdict

All vaccines used in the UK have been proven safe in stringent testing. We have decades of safety data for many common vaccines.

What was claimed

No vaccine has ever been proven effective.

Our verdict

All vaccines used in the UK have been proven effective in stringent testing. We have decades of efficacy data for many common vaccines.

What was claimed

No two vaccines have ever been tested together for their efficacy.

Our verdict

Many vaccines have been tested together for efficacy, including as part of the recent co-administration of Covid-19 and flu vaccines.

Kate Shemirani, a former nurse and campaigner against vaccines, has made false claims about vaccines in a Facebook post. We’ve checked several false claims about the Covid-19 vaccines by Ms Shemirani before.

These claims are part of a wider problem with misinformation about vaccines. Bad information about vaccines could influence the decisions people make about their health.

Uptake rates of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine dropped sharply in the UK following now-discredited research linking the jab to autism in children, and this may have been responsible for outbreaks of measles in children ever since. Similarly, false claims about Covid-19 vaccines may have contributed to reduced uptake in certain communities.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)–which licences vaccines for use in the UK–told Full Fact that no vaccine would be approved in the UK unless it met stringent standards for safety, quality and effectiveness.

Ms Shemirani made four specific claims in the post, which are not true. Full Fact approached Ms Shemirani for comment via social media, but we have not received a response at the time of writing.

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Children do not receive almost 100 vaccines

Ms Shemirani claimed: “Children can now expect to Receive almost 100 vaccines on the Recommended schedule.”

In general, children in the UK are recommended to have 18 doses of vaccines in the routine schedule by the time they’re 14—plus an annual dose of the flu vaccine for most school-age children. Some children with specific needs may also be offered others, such as Hepatitis B vaccination if born to a mother infected with the virus, or tuberculosis vaccination if living in an area with high rates of the disease.

By our count, even a child receiving all the currently recommended routine vaccinations along with all the selectively offered ones, including annual doses of the flu vaccine from the age of six months, would get a maximum of 40 vaccine doses from the schedule at 17 years old.

Children travelling abroad to certain countries may be advised to have additional vaccines for certain diseases but these are not offered routinely.

Different countries have different vaccination schedules, which may include more doses, but Ms Shemirani is based in the UK so we have checked using UK figures. The NHS describes a dose of a vaccine against several diseases (such as the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) as a single dose.

Vaccines in the UK schedule meet MHRA safety standards

Shemirani goes on to claim “No vaccine has ever been proven safe”.

The MHRA told Full Fact that every vaccine in the UK schedule has been approved as meeting its safety standards. 

To take one example, the HPV vaccine was introduced in the late 2000s, since when more than 100 million people worldwide have had the jab. In the UK, it is recommended to start the two dose vaccination regime in children aged 12 to 13 years.The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety “considers HPV vaccines to be extremely safe”. 

Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and fainting episodes (syncope) were flagged in initial safety data, but rates of anaphylaxis have been found to be very low, at 1.7 cases per million doses, and syncope was established to be due to anxiety around the injection. 

Specific data on autoimmune diseases and risks in pregnancy also found no connection with the HPV vaccine, despite “unsubstantiated allegations” that it was linked to these conditions. 

Meanwhile the vaccine has helped to reduce risk of HPV transmission and this may be starting to reduce cervical cancer risk in countries with high uptake.

Vaccines are effective

Ms Shemirani’s claim is very broad, stating “No vaccine has ever been proven affective [sic]”. But assuming she meant “effective” we can again use one example of the many effective vaccines to show that it is false. 

The World Health Organisation estimates: “Immunization currently prevents 3.5-5 million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles”.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a viral infection that used to be common, which in the worst cases can cause permanent disabling paralysis and even death. However, there have been no cases of paralysis from polio caught in the UK since 1984 thanks to a vaccine that has been available since the 1950s.

Decades of evidence involving hundreds of thousands of study participants has shown the polio vaccines to be effective. A global effort to eradicate the disease through vaccination has been almost completely successful, cutting reported wild cases from 350,000 in 1988 to 6 in 2021. 

Some cases of vaccine-derived polio have occurred recently. This is a mutated form of the virus that can spread when not enough people in a community are vaccinated.

It’s not true that no two vaccines have ever been tested together for their efficacy

The schedule of routine childhood vaccinations contains several that are given at the same time, all of which have been tested for their efficacy together. Ms Shemirani, however, claimed that “No two vaccines have ever been tested together for their efficacy”.

An MHRA spokesperson told Full Fact “Any new vaccine added to the UK childhood immunisation schedule is assessed in combination with the existing vaccines that will be co-administered before it is authorised for use. 

“The immune response, an indicator of efficacy, is investigated during the clinical development programme.”

The NHS also advised that the recent round of Covid-19 booster doses should be given alongside winter flu jabs. 

This followed a 2021 trial with 679 participants, in which immune responses for the flu and Pfizer or AstraZeneca Covid vaccines were found to be as good for both vaccines given together as when they were given separately.

A systematic review of three trials (including the one above) also found that co-administration of flu and Covid vaccines didn’t generally reduce the immune response to either vaccine. 

One of the studies did find that the antibody levels generated after the Novavax Covid vaccine were slightly lower when it was given alongside a flu vaccine, but vaccine efficacy appeared to have been preserved.


Image courtesy of CDC

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