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U.S. Health Officials Back Off Preference for New MMRV Vaccine
Date:3/13/2008

CDC reports more seizures seen in toddlers given combined shot; experts stress real risk is still low

THURSDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials are no longer recommending the combination MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella and varicella) vaccine over the MMR vaccine and a separate varicella vaccine for kids.

The change comes after new data show that the MMRV shot increases the risk for febrile seizure in children aged 12 to 23 months. Preliminary findings suggest there is a doubling in the relative increased risk in this age group within a week to 10 days after receiving the shot, according to a report in the March 14 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Based on the preliminary data, the CDC'S Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is withdrawing its preference, issued last year, for the combination vaccine over the two separate injections.

But the absolute risk of febrile seizures is still low, experts stressed.

"The relative risk doesn't really give parents the true understanding of what's happening," said Dr. Robert Frenck, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "A big pediatric practice maybe has 100 newborns a month added to its practice, so that they may see one [incidence of febrile seizure related to the vaccination] a year."

And because of manufacturing difficulties, the MMRV shot, made by Merck, won't really be available until about this time next year, added Frenck, who is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases.

The MMRV was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 6, 2005, for use in children aged 12 months to 12 years. The first dose was recommended at 12 to 15 months, and the second at 4 to 6 years.

But the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), which monitors vacc
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