Gait disturbance interpreted as cerebellar ataxia after MMR vaccination at 15 months of age: a follow-up study


Anne-Marie Plesner, National Board of Health, Amaliegade 13, DK-1012 Copenhagen K, Denmark (Tel. +45 33 91 16 01, fax. +45 33 12 69 37)


Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination was included in the Danish childhood vaccination programme in 1987. During the following 10-y period, 550 notification records of adverse events after MMR vaccination at 15 mo of age have been registered, and a total of 41 notifications have included “gait disturbance”. This corresponds to a frequency of 8 per 100 000 doses of MMR vaccine used for 15-mo-old children. The symptoms and signs are characteristic of cerebellar ataxia. In 28 notifications, the descriptions by the doctors included only “gait disturbance”, while in 13 an additional interpretation was included. Thirty-two parents (78%) filled in a questionnaire and 26 (63%) agreed to participate in a clinical follow-up study. The gait disturbance symptoms mainly occurred 7–14 d after the vaccination, and the duration was median 1–2 wk (range 1 d to more than 4 mo). One-third of the children had symptoms lasting more than 2 wk. Significantly more children with long duration of symptoms had some kind of complaint or clinical signs at the follow-up in 1997. Gait disturbance registered after MMR vaccination seems to be more frequent than hitherto reported. Most cases are mild and short-lasting and a longer duration of symptoms seems to be predictive of late sequelae. A clinical diagnosis of cerebellar ataxia after MMR and the exact frequency of this adverse event remains to be tested in prospective studies.