Context: The rate of febrile seizures increases following measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination but it is unknown whether the rate varies according to personal or family history of seizures, perinatal factors, or socioeconomic status. Furthermore, little is known about the long-term outcome of febrile seizures following vaccination.
Objectives: To estimate incidence rate ratios (RRs) and risk differences of febrile seizures following MMR vaccination within subgroups of children and to evaluate the clinical outcome of febrile seizures following vaccination.
Design, setting, and participants: A population-based cohort study of all children born in Denmark between January 1, 1991, and December 31, 1998, who were alive at 3 months; 537,171 children were followed up until December 31, 1999, by using data from the Danish Civil Registration System and 4 other national registries.
Main outcome measures: Incidence of first febrile seizure, recurrent febrile seizures, and subsequent epilepsy.
Results: A total of 439,251 children (82%) received MMR vaccination and 17,986 children developed febrile seizures at least once; 973 of these febrile seizures occurred within 2 weeks of MMR vaccination. The RR of febrile seizures increased during the 2 weeks following MMR vaccination (2.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.55-2.97), and thereafter was close to the observed RR for nonvaccinated children. The RR did not vary significantly in the subgroups of children that had been defined by their family history of seizures, perinatal factors, or socioeconomic status. At 15 to 17 months, the risk difference of febrile seizures within 2 weeks following MMR vaccination was 1.56 per 1000 children overall (95% CI, 1.44-1.68), 3.97 per 1000 (95% CI, 2.90-5.40) for siblings of children with a history of febrile seizures, and 19.47 per 1000 (95% CI, 16.05-23.55) for children with a personal history of febrile seizures. Children with febrile seizures following MMR vaccinations had a slightly increased rate of recurrent febrile seizures (RR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.01-1.41) but no increased rate of epilepsy (RR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.33-1.50) compared with children who were nonvaccinated at the time of their first febrile seizure.
Conclusions: MMR vaccination was associated with a transient increased rate of febrile seizures but the risk difference was small even in high-risk children. The long-term rate of epilepsy was not increased in children who had febrile seizures following vaccination compared with children who had febrile seizures of a different etiology.