Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine
What does the MMR vaccination protect against?
MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses.
Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious conditions that can have serious and potentially fatal complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness. They can also cause complications if an unvaccinated pregnant woman catches any of them in pregnancy. This can affect the unborn baby, and in some cases lead to miscarriage.
Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, it has been rare for children in the UK to develop these serious conditions. However, outbreaks happen and there have been cases of measles in recent years, so it's important to ensure that you and your children are up-to-date with the MMR vaccination.
Measles is an unpleasant and highly contagious disease that typically causes a high fever and blotchy skin rash. The infection does not usually last longer than two weeks, though some serious complications are possible. These include pneumonia (an infection of the air sacs in the lungs) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). There is no specific cure or treatment for measles.
Mumps is spread in the same way as the common cold and has similar symptoms to tonsillitis. Most notably, it can cause painful swelling of the parotid glands (responsible for producing saliva and located under the ears). There is no specific cure or treatment for mumps and the infection usually disappears within approximately two weeks, however it can lead to viral meningitis.
Rubella (German Measles)
Common symptoms of rubella include fever, painful joints and a red-pink skin rash made up of small spots. In most cases, it is a mild condition that does not require any treatment; however the disease can become a serious concern in pregnant women. This is because the virus can disrupt the development of unborn babies and cause eye and ear problems, heart abnormalities and brain damage. There is no specific cure or treatment for rubella.
Who should be vaccinated?
The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses. All babies on the Isle of Man should receive their first MMR vaccination between 12 and 13 months of age. A second (usually final) MMR vaccination is required at 3 years and 4 months old.
MMR for older children
Children up to the age of 18 who missed, or only partially completed, their earlier MMR vaccination can have a ‘catch-up’ MMR vaccination on the NHS.
If you know or suspect that your child hasn't been fully immunised, or if you know or suspect that you yourself haven’t had the 2 doses, you should arrange with your GP to have a catch-up MMR vaccination.
MMR vaccination for women planning pregnancy
Women who are planning to become pregnant and have never been vaccinated against these three diseases, or are unsure if they have been completely vaccinated, should make a doctor’s appointment to discuss their needs. This is important as catching these diseases during pregnancy (especially rubella) can cause problems for the unborn baby. The MMR vaccines can be given up to one month before pregnancy; they are not routinely given during pregnancy.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes –the MMR vaccine does contain small amounts of reduced strength, but not dangerous, live viruses and side effects are possible as with all vaccinations. That said, it is important to remember that these are usually far less serious than the potential complications of mumps, measles or rubella.
As there are three separate vaccines within a single injection, different side effects can occur at different times. The side effects of the MMR vaccine are usually mild.
Side effects include:
- developing a mild form of measles that lasts for two to three days – this is not infectious
- developing a mild form of mumps that lasts for a day or two – this is not infectious
In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots may appear a few weeks after the injection. See your GP if you notice this kind of rash, or if you have any concerns about your child's symptoms after having the MMR jab.
It is also important to note that a controversial study linking the MMR vaccine with autism in 1998 has since been completely discredited. A number of much larger scale studies conducted more recently have shown no connection.
How effective is vaccination?
Since the MMR vaccine was introduced into the UK in 1988, it has dramatically reduced measles, mumps and rubella infection in young children.