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Febrile Seizure Risk Double for MMRV Vaccine

June 10, 2014 — The Canadian Medical Association Journal has published a study linking the use of a single, combination vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella (Chicken Pox) to a doubled increased risk of fever-induced febrile seizure than separate vaccines for MMR and Chicken Pox.

Results of the study were based on data from nearly 230,000 children in Canada who received the vaccines between 12-23 months of age. The children who received one combination MMRV vaccine had an estimated risk of 7-9 seizures per 10,000. This was about 3-4 more seizures than children who received two separate vaccines, an MMR vaccine in one arm and a Chicken Pox vaccine in the other.

The authors of the study were quick to point out that even a doubled increased risk translates into relatively few cases numerically. In comparison, measles causes about 60-70 febrile seizures per 10,000 children.

The lead author on the study, Shannon E. MacDonald, PhD, RN, said that combining MMR and Chicken Pox is appealing because it decreases the child’s pain and drug delivery costs. She also pointed out that febrile seizures are not always serious:

“Febrile seizures are typically self-limiting and rarely have long-term effects, but they can be extremely distressing for parents, may precipitate acute care visits and may undermine confidence in immunization programs.”

Dr. MacDonald recommended that parents should be informed of the risk of high fever and febrile seizures from vaccines. These seizures usually occur between 7-10 days after the vaccine is administered. Parents should be aware of the symptoms, which may include a loss of consciousness, shaking or jerking of the arms and legs on both sides of the body, and rolling the eyes into the back of the head.

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