In February 2008, we alerted the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to preliminary evidence of a twofold increased risk of febrile seizures after the combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine when compared with separate measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and varicella vaccines. Now with data on twice as many vaccine recipients, our goal was to reexamine seizure risk after MMRV vaccine.
Using 2000–2008 Vaccine Safety Datalink data, we assessed seizures and fever visits among children aged 12 to 23 months after MMRV and separate MMR + varicella vaccines. We compared seizure risk after MMRV vaccine to that after MMR + varicella vaccines by using Poisson regression as well as with supplementary regressions that incorporated chart-review results and self-controlled analyses.
MMRV vaccine recipients (83 107) were compared with recipients of MMR + varicella vaccines (376 354). Seizure and fever significantly clustered 7 to 10 days after vaccination with all measles-containing vaccines but not after varicella vaccination alone. Seizure risk during days 7 to 10 was higher after MMRV than after MMR + varicella vaccination (relative risk: 1.98 [95% confidence interval: 1.43–2.73]). Supplementary analyses yielded similar results. The excess risk for febrile seizures 7 to 10 days after MMRV compared with separate MMR + varicella vaccination was 4.3 per 10 000 doses (95% confidence interval: 2.6–5.6).
Among 12- to 23-month-olds who received their first dose of measles-containing vaccine, fever and seizure were elevated 7 to 10 days after vaccination. Vaccination with MMRV results in 1 additional febrile seizure for every 2300 doses given instead of separate MMR + varicella vaccines. Providers who recommend MMRV should communicate to parents that it increases the risk of fever and seizure over that already associated with measles-containing vaccines.