January 22, 2011
Reports of young children having seizures after receiving the flu vaccine have prompted government agencies to investigate.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have detected an increase of febrile seizures in children younger than two years old following influenza vaccination with a vaccine called Fluzone. Data in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national vaccine safety surveillance program jointly sponsored by the FDA and CDC, alerted the agencies to the potential problem.
A fever can trigger convulsions called febrile seizures in children. Symptoms of a febrile seizure may be mild or severe. Although these seizures are fairly common with about 4% of young children suffering at least one febrile seizure in their lifetime, they can be as dangerous as any seizure. Children may fall and hurt themselves, hit their head, bite their tongue or suffer lack of oxygen if their tongue obstructs the airway for example.
All children who experience a febrile seizure need immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital. The government’s Medline Plus recommends that caregivers call 911 if a child’s seizure lasts more than a few minutes or should drive the child to the emergency room if the seizure ends quickly.
There have been 36 confirmed reports of febrile seizures in children six months to two years in age within one day of vaccination with Fluzone, reports the Associated Press. In ten cases, the children required hospitalization. All 36 children recovered.
Sanofi Pasteur Inc. manufactures the Fluzone vaccine (trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine or TIV). It is the only influenza vaccine recommended for children 6-23 months old this 2010-2011 flu season.
“Further investigations are under way to assess whether there could be an association between influenza vaccination and febrile seizures, or if other factors could be involved,” the FDA said in a release.
The CDC has not changed its recommendation for influenza vaccination, recommending that all persons ages 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine each year.
“The risk of severe influenza illness is higher among young children, especially children under 2 years of age,” the FDA said. “Approximately 9 out of 10,000 children 6-23 months of age require hospitalization each season for reasons related to influenza. Flu vaccine is the best way to protect against becoming ill with the flu.”
Find out more about influenza at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Flu Website.