Background: The administration of the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and whole-cell pertussis (DTP) vaccine and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been associated with adverse neurologic events, including seizures. We studied the relation between these vaccinations and the risk of a first seizure, subsequent seizures, and neurodevelopmental disability in children.
Methods: This cohort study was conducted at four large health maintenance organizations and included reviews of the medical records of children with seizures. We calculated the relative risks of febrile and nonfebrile seizures among 679,942 children after 340,386 vaccinations with DTP vaccine, 137,457 vaccinations with MMR vaccine, or no recent vaccination. Children who had febrile seizures after vaccination were followed to identify the risk of subsequent seizures and other neurologic disabilities.
Results: Receipt of DTP vaccine was associated with an increased risk of febrile seizures only on the day of vaccination (adjusted relative risk, 5.70; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.98 to 16.42). Receipt of MMR vaccine was associated with an increased risk of febrile seizures 8 to 14 days after vaccination (relative risk, 2.83; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.44 to 5.55). Neither vaccination was associated with an increased risk of nonfebrile seizures. Analyses of automated data alone gave results similar to the analyses of the data from medical-record reviews. The number of febrile seizures attributable to the administration of DTP and MMR vaccines was estimated to be 6 to 9 and 25 to 34 per 100,000 children, respectively. As compared with other children with febrile seizures that were not associated with vaccination, the children who had febrile seizures after vaccination were not found to be at higher risk for subsequent seizures or neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Conclusions: There are significantly elevated risks of febrile seizures on the day of receipt of DTP vaccine and 8 to 14 days after the receipt of MMR vaccine, but these risks do not appear to be associated with any long-term, adverse consequences.