Tag: SSPE deaths

Is the MMR Safe for 6-Month-Old Babies?

Most parents understand that the first dose of the MMR vaccine is routinely given to children when they are 12 to 15 months old, at least in the United States.

In some other countries, the first dose is routinely given as early as 8 to 9-months of age.

And in high-risk situations, the MMR can safely be given to infants as early as age 6-months.

Is the MMR Safe for 6 Month Old Babies?

An early MMR, is that safe?

This type of pure anti-vaccine propaganda is what caused the measles outbreaks in New York in the first place...
This type of pure anti-vaccine propaganda is what caused the measles outbreaks in New York in the first place…

Yes, it is safe.

What about the package insert?

“Local health authorities may recommend measles vaccination of infants between 6 to 12 months of age in outbreak situations. This population may fail to respond to the components of the vaccine. Safety and effectiveness of mumps and rubella vaccine in infants less than 12 months of age have not been established. The younger the infant, the lower the likelihood of seroconversion (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). Such infants should receive a second dose of M-M-R II between 12 to 15 months of age followed by revaccination at elementary school entry.”

MMR II Package Insert

The package insert says to give infants who get an early dose another dose when they are 12 to 15 months old! It doesn’t say to not protect these babies!

But what about the idea that the safety and effectiveness of MMR hasn’t been proven for infants under 12 months of age?

In general, the package insert is only going to list studies that the manufacturer used to get FDA approval for their vaccine. Since it is an off-label recommendation of the ACIP, they would not include the studies that show that an early MMR is safe and effective.

“In conclusion, this study indicated that the MMR was well tolerated and immunogenic against measles, mumps and rubella with schedule of first dose both at 8 months and 12 months age. Our findings strongly supported that two doses of MMR can be introduced by replacing the first dose of MR in current EPI with MMR at 8 months age and the second dose at 18 months in China.”

He et al on Similar immunogenicity of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine administrated at 8 months versus 12 months age in children.

Before 8 months, an early MMR isn’t likely to be as effective as giving it later. That’s because some maternal antibodies might linger in a baby’s system and can interfere with the vaccine working, even after six months. How many antibodies and how much interference?

It’s almost impossible to tell for any one child, but the risk that this maternal protection has begun to wear off and these infants are at risk to develop measles is too great. That’s the reason that they get an early MMR, even though we know it won’t be as effective as a dose given later and we know it will have to be repeated.

Is this early dose safe?

“This review did not identify any major safety concerns. These findings may facilitate discussions about the risks and benefits of vaccinating infants who are potentially exposed to this life-threatening disease.”

Woo et al on Adverse Events After MMR or MMRV Vaccine in Infants Under Nine Months Old

Of course! Although the complications of measles can be serious, even deadly, we aren’t going to recommend something that is even worse.

“Early MMR vaccination is well tolerated, with the lowest AE frequencies found in infants aged 6-8 months. It is a safe intervention for protecting young infants against measles.”

van der Maas et al on Tolerability of Early Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Infants Aged 6-14 Months During a Measles Outbreak in The Netherlands in 2013-2014.

So an early MMR is safe, with few risks, and is likely effective at preventing measles.

And by now you know what’s not safe. That’s right, getting measles.

More on Early MMR Vaccines

Why Do We Include SSPE When Counting Measles Deaths?

Anti-vaccine folks often like to push the idea that parents shouldn’t worry about measles and that it is just a rash with a little fever.

They leave out the part that it is a week of having a high fever, irritability, and other symptoms too.

In addition to downplaying the symptoms of measles, they never talk about the possible complications, such as encephalitis, seizures, and death.

Why Do We Include SSPE When Counting Measles Deaths?

They certainly never talk about SSPE or subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.

“Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive neurological disorder of children and young adults that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a slow, but persistent, viral infection caused by defective measles virus.”

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Information Page

SSPE is a late complication of having a natural measles infection.

That’s why it should be included when counting measles deaths.

“Available epidemiological data, in line with virus genotyping data, do not suggest that measles vaccine virus can cause SSPE. Furthermore, epidemiological data do not suggest that the administration of measles vaccine can accelerate the course of SSPE or trigger SSPE in an individual who would have developed the disease at a later time without immunization. Neither can the vaccine lead to the development of SSPE where it would not otherwise have occurred in a person who has already a benign persistent wild measles infection at the time of vaccination.”

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and measles vaccination

It is not a complication of having a measles containing vaccine. If it were, then why didn’t we see more cases of SSPE as more and more people got vaccinated, instead of a drop in SSPE cases and deaths, corresponding to a drop in measles cases?

But SSPE isn’t gone yet, just like measles hasn’t yet been eradicated.

32 of these SSPE deaths have been since 2000. Source is the CDC Wonder database.
32 of these SSPE deaths have been since 2000. Source is the CDC Wonder database.

Since 2000, when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States, there have been at least 37 SSPE deaths.

“Investigators learned that, in 2012, at age 11 years, the boy, who was previously healthy and developmentally normal, had been admitted to a tertiary care children’s hospital in Oregon with severe, progressive encephalopathy. Before the onset of his neurologic illness, the patient had been a straight-A, fifth-grade student who played soccer and basketball. The symptoms began approximately 4 months before the hospital admission, when the patient began to struggle with homework, drop utensils, and doze off during meals, eventually progressing to falling asleep while walking.”

Notes from the Field: Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Death — Oregon, 2015

I say at least, because the CDC Wonder database doesn’t list the 2015 SSPE death of a boy in Oregon.

Anti-vaccine folks like to ignore the fact that yes, people have died of measles recently. And measles puts you at risk for SSPE, which is always fatal.
Anti-vaccine folks like to ignore the fact that yes, people have died of measles recently. And measles puts you at risk for SSPE, which is always fatal.

We are fortunate that no one has died since 2015, but as we get more and more measles cases, tragically, in addition of the risk of someone dying of measles directly, it increases the risk that someone will eventually develop SSPE.

“Decreasing rates of vaccination in the United States, particularly among preschool-aged children (children <5 years of age) living in inner-city areas, resulted in a resurgence in the number of cases of measles reported during 1989–1991; during this period, 55,622 cases of measles and 123 measles-associated deaths were reported.”

Bellini et al on Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: More Cases of This Fatal Disease Are Prevented by Measles Immunization than Was Previously Recognized

Remember, there were at least 12 extra SSPE deaths following the large measles outbreaks of the late 1980s.

Will we see any after the rise in the cases the last few years?

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and obviously necessary.

Don’t risk a complication of measles. Don’t risk getting SSPE.

More on SSPE Deaths