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Study finds no long term seizure risk with children's vaccines

4 September, 2001

Parents concerned about the link between childhood vaccinations and seizures need not worry, according to new research conducted by the Center for Health Studies and the University of Washington.

Children who suffer rare fever-related seizures after getting DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccinations do not have an increased risk of subsequent seizures or developing epilepsy.

The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed that DTP and MMR vaccinations may temporarily increase the risk for fever-related seizures, also called "febrile seizures" in some children. But the study also confirmed the findings of smaller studies that these vaccinations are not linked with more serious kinds of seizures, such as those associated with epilepsy.

The study was conducted among nearly 680,000 children - one of every 40 children in the United States under the age of 7. Researchers examined the medical records of children who experienced fever-related seizures between 1991 and 1993.

"We found that a child's fever-related seizure did not result in any lasting adverse consequences for the child," said report co-author Dr William Barlow.

"In addition, we found that children vaccinated with DTP are most at risk for seizures on the day of the vaccination. Previously it was believed that the risk period was the same for three days following the shot.

Compared to children who were not recently vaccinated, the researchers found that fewer than 1 in 13,000 children given the DTP vaccine had a seizure. The seizure rate was less than 1 in 3,300 for children who received the MMR vaccine.

The authors stressed that the benefits of the shots outweigh the risks. For example, unvaccinated children risk neurological problems if they develop measles or whooping cough.