During our province’s measles outbreak, Alberta parents are learning more about the importance of immunization — to protect their child and to protect others. And now, they are learning more about the safety of these vaccines.
Alberta Health monitors and ensures the safety of all vaccines used in the province. Our data and expertise provided the basis for a University of Calgary study released on June 9.
This study confirms that both the measles vaccine and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine are safe, and its findings will help Alberta parents make well-informed decisions about their child’s immunization and to choose which vaccine their child receives.
The study found a small risk for febrile seizures among children who received the measles–mumps–rubella–varicella vaccine. The risk in Alberta is approximately one for every 2,841 doses administered. These findings are consistent with the results of similar studies conducted in the United States (one in 2,300 doses) and Germany (one in 2,747 doses).
Yet, the protection offered by both vaccines far outweighs the risk. In fact, children who are not vaccinated and contract the measles have a greater chance of having a febrile seizure than those who are immunized. Based on data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of febrile seizure from measles is approximately 10 times greater than the risk associated with vaccine. This means the risk of having a febrile seizure after receiving the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine is six seizures per 10,000 doses. The risk for a child with measles is 60 to 70 seizures per 10,000 children.
Because febrile seizures can accompany high fever, children should be monitored for fever after immunization, especially during days seven to 10. If your child has a fever, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used. If you are concerned your child is having an adverse reaction, phone Health Link for advice. Parents who do not want the combined vaccine can choose to have the vaccines separately.
Alberta Health will continue to monitor the vaccines used in our province to ensure they are safe and effective. And, we will continue to share this information with Alberta parents.
Dr. James Talbot
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta