A comprehensive evaluation of the four-in-one combination vaccine given to Australian toddlers – designed to protect against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox – has backed its safety.
Known as the MMRV vaccine, it was one of two new combination vaccines added to the immunisation schedule in 2013, reducing the number of injections babies needed.
The change meant that a second dose of the measles-containing vaccine (MCV) was given to children at 18 months as opposed to four years.
“We know that children need two doses,” said Professor Kristine Macartney at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
However there were concerns, raised out of the US, that the MMRV vaccine given to very young children was linked to a greater risk of fever and febrile seizures.
A University of Sydney study, published in journal JAMA Pediatrics, evaluated the way the vaccine is used in Australia.
It found no increase in febrile seizures associated with this second dose given at 18 months.
Researchers at the University of Sydney examined all children who presented to pediatric hospitals across the country with a febrile convulsion, then looked at what vaccines they had received.
“Children were at no particular risk of having seizures after having the vaccine,” Professor Macartney told AAP.
The expert in pediatric infectious diseases says the findings should ease parent concerns that the vaccine does not overwhelm the child’s immune system.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases and the MMRV vaccine now means children have well above 95 per cent protection by the age of two.
“For every case of measles if you had an un-immunised population you would see about 15 more cases just from that one case, so highly contagious,” said Professor Macartney.
“Although we have eliminated the virus from this country in terms of what we call endemic continuous circulation, we are constantly getting importations of people with measles, so we need vaccine coverage for measles as close to 100 per cent as we can possibly get so that its blocked from spreading in the community,” she said.