MMR Vaccination MMR vaccine is a three part vaccine, given by injection, which is to
protect (immunise) against Measles, Mumps and German Measles (Rubella). It is given to
children at 12 to 15 months, with a reinforcing dose (a booster) before school, usually
between 3 and 5 years.
The vaccine is a freeze-dried preparation which contains live virus
particles of the three viruses, which have been modified (attenuated) to stop
them from producing the full effects of the disease.
The vaccine is given, by injection, into the thigh or upper arm. It has been found that
a booster, before school, makes it likely that more people will be properly protected.
The idea is to fool the body's defence system into thinking it is under attack by the
viruses, and to produce defence mechanisms (antibodies) which will fight off the
conditions if they are encountered in the future. There is no risk of someone
who has been vaccinated infecting other people with the viruses. Usually the
vaccine is for children, but it can be given to non-immune adults. It is
suggested that people in long term institutional care, who are not immune,
should have the vaccine. It is also recommended that students starting at
college or university, who have not received the vaccine previously, should be
Reasons for having the inoculation
The most serious of these, as far as how ill the child gets, is Measles, but all
of them can have serious and even fatal complications. In the case of German Measles
the major worry is that of risk to the unborn baby if caught by a woman during
early pregnancy. Mumps too can have serious affects, and affect male fertility,
when caught after puberty.
These conditions are still common on a world-wide basis. In countries like the
UK, where the take-up rate of immunisations is high, the actual occurrence of
the conditions becomes rare. It is not, however, possible to stop immunisation,
because of the high level of the conditions elsewhere in the world, and the
volume of international travel.
It is true that the amount that a disease occurs (the incidence) will reduce once
a certain percentage of the population has been inoculated. This is called "herd immunity".
It is possible for some individuals to depend on this and avoid having the vaccine themselves. This is, however,
selfish and if everybody had that attitude, the diseases would remain
Anything we take into our body can have side effects. MMR vaccine, are no exception,
but vaccines are among the safest medicines. The commonest side effects are similar to
a mild version of one of the viruses involved, and not very different to the measles
vaccine which was previously used. The child may be generally less vigorous,
have a slight fever and possibly a rash, most often about a week after the
immunisation and lasting about two or three days. Swelling of the glands in the
cheeks, as seen in mumps, may happen about three weeks after the injection in
about 1 in 100 cases.
Occasionally more serious events, such as convulsions,
occur. This happens in about 1 in 1000 cases, six to eleven days after the
injection. If your child develops worrying side effects you should contact your