Should Parents Be Concerned About Combination Vaccines and Febrile Seizures?

Anti-vaccine folks have parents worried about everything and anything having to do with vaccines these days.

Unlike most of the ideas that anti-vaxxers push, febrile seizures really can occur after vaccines. Fortunately, they aren’t something to be worried about.

Should Parents Be Concerned About Combination Vaccines and Febrile Seizures?

While febrile seizures can be scary, it is important to know that without other risk factors, kids who develop febrile seizures after a vaccine are at the same small risk for developing epilepsy as other kids.

And know that vaccines aren’t the only cause of febrile seizures. Vaccine-preventable diseases can cause both febrile seizures and more serious non-febrile seizures.

What about the extra risk of febrile seizures following combination vaccines?

“Studies have shown a small increased risk for febrile seizures during the 5 to 12 days after a child has received their first vaccination with the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. The risk is slightly higher with the measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (MMRV) combination vaccine, but the risk is still small. Studies have not shown an increased risk for febrile seizures after the separate varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.”

Childhood Vaccines and Febrile Seizures

The small extra risk of febrile seizures for the measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (MMRV) combination vaccine vs the separate MMR and chicken pox vaccines is just for the first dose of these vaccines, so pediatricians and parents might choose to give the separate vaccines instead. And only use this combination vaccine for the second dose.

Are any other combination vaccines a concern for febrile seizures?

Nope, even though some anti-vaccine sites push that idea and that vaccines can cause epilepsy.

Parents will likely be reassured by one of the studies that anti-vaccine folks like to cite, which states that “vaccination with DTaP-IPV-Hib was not associated with an increased risk of epilepsy.”

We do know that there is a small increased risk for febrile seizures when the influenza vaccine is given at the same time as either the Prevnar13 vaccine or the DTaP vaccine, although “the risk of febrile seizure with any combination of these vaccines is small and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) does not recommend getting any of these vaccines on separate days.”

Is the risk really small though?

After all, an article by Sheri A Marino talks about a 6-fold extra risk in some cases.

Isn’t that a lot?

“Does this mean we should stop giving these vaccines together or stop giving them at all? We say, emphatically, no. With the results of this study, we can accurately calculate the risks and benefits of this practice. The risk is 1 febrile seizure per pediatric practice every 5 to 10 years. Febrile seizures, although frightening to parents, rarely have any long-term sequelae. The benefits of giving these vaccines simultaneously include decreased office visits associated with painful vaccines, decreased episodes of vaccine-associated fussiness, and, most important, the assurance that children will be fully immunized and protected from infections that carry real morbidity and mortality. It is well established that the vaccines we miss when we fail to give all the vaccines we can (simultaneously at each health care visit) may never be administered to some children, thus leaving them at risk for the diseases the vaccines prevent. It goes without saying that influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and pneumococcal infections may result in serious illness. These infections also have the potential to cause fevers and febrile seizures. Without vaccines to prevent these illnesses, pediatricians would see many more than 1 case of most of these infections each decade. In fact, they would see children in their practices with both febrile seizures and life-threatening infections. The risk from these diseases far outweighs the risk from the vaccines.”

Sawyer et al on Vaccines and Febrile Seizures: Quantifying the Risk

Because the risk of febrile seizures is so small, it remains small even with any extra risk.

What’s more concerning? The risks of following anti-vaccine propaganda and leaving your kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

More on Vaccines and Febrile Seizures

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