Parents who fear that their children will suffer from severe side effects after receiving vaccinations now have less reason to worry. A new study published in the August 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine finds that although two common vaccines in rare cases may cause high fevers that can cause seizures, there are almost always no long-term, harmful consequences.

Vaccinations have come under much scrutiny lately, and have been alleged to cause conditions such as epilepsy, autism, and other developmental disorders. Research has not supported these assertions; however, many parents have since chosen to abandon the standar — and often mandatory– vaccination and immunization regimen. This places children at risk for developing potentially lethal diseases such as whooping cough and measles that are vaccine-preventable and have been nearly eliminated in the United States and many other countries.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by William E. Barlow, Ph.D., conducted a study to evaluate the risk of febrile (fever-related) and nonfebrile seizures after receiving two common vaccinations: the DTP vaccine, which prevents diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the MMR vaccine, which prevents measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). The researchers analyzed medical data from 679,942 children — almost 2 percent of the nation’ s population under the age of 7– who were vaccinated between 1991 and 1993 with either the DTP or MMR vaccine. Also included in the study group were children with no recent vaccination.

According to the results, children who received the DTP vaccine were 6 times more likely to experience a febrile seizure on the day of the vaccination than those who did not receive the vaccine. Those children who received the MMR vaccine were 3 times as likely to experience such a seizure over a period of 8 to 14 days, compared to those children who did not have the vaccine. The researchers estimate that out of every 100,000 children who receive the DTP vaccine, 6 to 9 febrile seizures will occur, while 25 to 34 seizures will occur as a result of the MMR vaccine.

Febrile seizures can occur when fevers are high and are characterized by brief jerking and eye-rolling spells. Although the episodes are not dangerous, they can be frightening for parents who see their children experience them.

An important finding of the study occurred in the follow-up period — none of the children with febrile seizures after vaccination had subsequent nonfebrile seizures or were given a diagnosis of epilepsy, a disease characterized by seizures not caused by fevers.

The authors state, ” We did not find a significantly elevated risk of febrile seizures at any other time after vaccination, nor did we find an elevated risk of nonfebrile seizures at any time after vaccination with DTP or MMR vaccine.”

” Our study provides additional evidence that children who have vaccine-associated febrile seizures are at no greater risk for epilepsy or learning, behavioral, or psychiatric disorders than other children with febrile seizures,” conclude the authors. Thus the vaccinations failed to cause any long-term harm, dispelling previous notions that vaccines were risky or dangerous.

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