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Vaccine coverage among children with epilepsy in two Canadian provinces: a Canadian immunization research network study

Righolt CH, Pabla G, Donelle J, Brna P, Deeks SL, Wilson SE, Smith B, Wilson K, Mahmud SM, Top KA, Hawken S. Vaccine. 2021; 39(15):2117-23. Epub 2021 Mar 13. DOI:

Objectives — Children with epilepsy are at increased risk of complications from vaccine-preventable infections, yet information on vaccine coverage in these children is scarce. We aimed to compare vaccine coverage among children with epilepsy to children without epilepsy.

Study Design — We conducted a retrospective cohort study including all 2005–2013 births in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada, creating two cohorts: 2-year-olds and 7-year-olds (followed to age 2 and 7 years). We split each cohort into epilepsy and non-epilepsy subcohorts. We assessed vaccination coverage based on provincial schedules and determined timeliness of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) dose 1 (recommended at 12 months) and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) dose 4 (recommended at 18 months). We used logistic regression to calculate adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of the association between epilepsy and vaccination, combining both provincial estimates using random effects meta-analysis.

Results — We included 16,558 2-year-olds (Manitoba, 653; Ontario, 15,905) and 13,004 7-year-olds (Manitoba, 483; Ontario, 12,521) with epilepsy. At age 2 years, the aOR for up-to-date vaccination among children with versus without epilepsy was 0.9 (95% confidence interval 0.8–1.1); at age 7 years it was 1.0 (0.9–1.1). Infants diagnosed with epilepsy before age 6 months were less likely to be up-to-date at age 2 years (0.9; 0.8–0.9), although this difference disappeared by age 7 years. Vaccine timeliness was similar between children with and without epilepsy for MMR dose 1 and DTaP dose 4.

Conclusions — Overall, this study suggests that children with epilepsy are not significantly under-vaccinated compared to their peers without epilepsy. As children with epilepsy are at a higher risk of complications from vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccination in children with epilepsy should be optimized, especially early in life, as these children may not be able to rely on herd protection.