“The MMR vaccine has been associated with a very small risk of febrile seizure as a side effect. Two recent studies indicate that for every 10,000 children who get the MMR and varicella vaccines for their first vaccinations when they are 12–23 months old, about 4 will have a febrile seizure during the 5–12 days following vaccination.”
Understanding the Risk of Febrile Seizures After the First Vaccination at Ages 12–47 Months
It can cause febrile seizures, but even then, it is only at about a rate of 1 in 2500 children after the first dose (0.04%).
Is that “five times the rate from the actual measles infection?”
As I’m sure you are guessing, the answer is obviously no.
Overall, seizures occur in about 0.6% to 0.7% of measles cases!
In addition, actual measles infections can cause non-febrile seizures, which are much more serious than febrile seizures.
Also, measles can cause encephalitis, a life-threatening complication that is often accompanied by seizures.
This is in contrast to simple febrile seizures, which again, are typically considered to be harmless.
We all know the saying, correlation equals causation, right?
So if you get an MMR vaccine and get the measles a week later, it has to be the vaccine, right?
Should I Blame the Vaccine If I’m Sick and I Just Got Vaccinated?
“Correlation does not imply causation.”
Although it would be very easy to blame the vaccine, if you keep in mind that the saying is actually “correlation does not imply causation,” maybe you will do a little investigating and see if something else is to blame.
Some things to consider and ask yourself:
Do I really have measles? Remember that it is not uncommon to develop a fever and a rash about 7 to 12 days after getting an MMR vaccine. This is a very common, mild vaccine reaction. It doesn’t mean that you have measles or even a mild case of the measles.
Was I recently exposed to someone with measles? If you were vaccinated because you were exposed to measles during an outbreak, then there is a good chance that the vaccine hasn’t had a chance to work yet and you actually developed measles from being exposed to the wild virus.
Are there any examples of folks having wild type disease if they get sick shortly after being vaccinated?
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of these types of examples.
“Vaccine strains are poorly or not transmissible and prompt differentiation between wild-type and vaccine strains allows for optimal management and public health action.”
Pabbaraju et al on Simultaneous Detection and Differentiation between Wild-Type and Vaccine Measles Viruses by a Multiplex Real-Time Reverse Transcription-PCR Assay
What about examples of folks getting sick with vaccine strain measles and other diseases? Not so many.
Most of the published examples are case reports without evidence of a vaccine strain.
What about the kid in Canada that got measles after her MMR vaccine?
“We describe a case of vaccine-associated measles in a two-year-old patient from British Columbia, Canada, in October 2013, who received her first dose of measles-containing vaccine 37 days prior to onset of prodromal symptoms.”
Murti et al on Case of vaccine-associated measles five weeks post-immunisation, British Columbia, Canada, October 2013.
She had symptoms of measles and a vaccine strain and was reported as “the first case of MMR vaccine-associated measles.” Well, at least the first case that occurred so long after getting vaccinated. Still, they note that “clinically significant vaccine-associated illness is rare.”
What about all of the people in California and Michigan who supposedly had vaccine-strain measles?
And we have evidence against vaccine induced disease.
When kids get chicken pox shortly after being vaccinated, they often have a wild strain. They don’t have breakthrough chicken pox.
“All of 57 vaccinees with breakthrough varicella, clinically diagnosed on the basis of a generalized maculopapular or vesicular rash, in which there was amplifiable DNA [corrected], had wild-type VZV infection based on analysis of viral DNA. “
LaRussa on Viral strain identification in varicella vaccinees with disseminated rashes.
Same thing with measles.
Want to avoid these situations in which you could get a wild strain of a vaccine-preventable disease?
Most of us are well aware of the risks (small) and benefits (big) of vaccines. That’s why we vaccinate our kids!
You probably aren’t aware that vaccines can also have non-specific effects.
What Are the Non-Specific Effects of Vaccinations?
Not getting measles after getting an MMR vaccine is a direct or specific effect of the vaccine.
“Vaccines are developed to produce an immune response to protect against specific disease targets. In addition to the specific effect of vaccines in reducing illness and death due to the disease targeted by the vaccine, some researchers have argued that there are additional “off-target” or “non-specific effects” (NSE) of vaccines, based on findings from observational studies. This refers to the potential effects besides the direct protection against the disease for which a given vaccine was developed.
In other words, NSE refers to any effect of a given vaccine, other than the intended effect of preventing disease caused by the specific pathogen they were designed to protect against. If present for a vaccine, NSE could potentially be beneficial, e.g. increasing protection against non-targeted infections, or disadvantageous, e.g. by increasing susceptibility to non-targeted infections.”
Non-specific effects of vaccines: Questions and answers
It is also thought that the BCG vaccine might have a non-specific effect that protects you against other infections.
Are these non-specific effects real?
What about the studies that found the DPT vaccine could increase mortality from other infections?
Non-specific effects aren’t all positive…
The initial research on these non-specific effects of vaccines was done by Peter Aaby in Guinea-Bissau West Africa.
“A study in Guinea-Bissau published in the British Medical Journal in December 2000 suggested a nonspecific effect of routine vaccination that might influence survival in infants, either negatively or positively, depending upon the vaccine. Increased mortality was reported in children vaccinated with DPT in the 6 months following vaccination. Female gender was suggested as a modifier of the outcome.
GACVS reviewed this issue and urged WHO to arrange for testing of the hypothesis on different data sets from different countries where vaccination data, death, and other factors possibly influencing mortality had been recorded. Following an open call for proposals, WHO funded or cofunded studies in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
Analysis of those studies was completed: all of them showed reduced mortality in the children vaccinated with all of the vaccines. In particular, the studies showed no negative effect of DPT vaccination and no difference between males and females. Preliminary results of an independent analysis conducted to test the hypothesis on another six data sets have been communicated to GACVS. None of these confirmed the observations from Guinea-Bissau with respect to the DPT vaccine.
GACVS concluded that the evidence is sufficient to reject the hypothesis for an increased nonspecific mortality following vaccination.”
Potential adverse impact of routine vaccination
The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the WHO thoroughly looked into Aaby’s hypothesis.
It was rejected after further studies were done.
“The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the WHO, an independent group of experts in drug safety, vaccine science, and epidemiology that advises the Department of Vaccines and Biologicals of the organisation, has closely considered the reported findings and conclusions of the paper. It has found that numerous and serious deficiencies in the paper did not allow it to reach the same definitive conclusions reached by the authors. In particular, it found that the reported observations are incomplete and do not tally, no systematic effort has been made to address the likelihood of bias introduced by the method of data collection, and categorical inferences have been drawn from data that are either not significant or critically dependent on a very small number of results that might equally be explained by chance. In addition, the probability of the results being distorted by confounding factors has not been adequately addressed. The analysis was data driven and not based on a priori generation of a hypothesis, which makes interpretation of significance values and confidence limits problematic. The conclusions of this paper need to be scrutinised to the same extent as adverse events previously mistakenly attributed to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine.”
WHO responds to Guinea-Bissau report
And as Peter Aaby continues to publish new reports on the effects of the DPT vaccine in Guinea-Bissau, researchers have continued to investigate any possible role these non-specific effects might have on children.
One of the latest, a report to the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization in 2014 concluded that the “data available do not provide conclusive evidence that the current schedule results in deleterious effects on all-cause mortality in children less than five years of age.”
This is mostly because studies about non-specific effects are thought to be weak and at high risk of bias.