The MMR vaccine comes in a single injection and protects against three common childhood illnesses: mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR vaccine was launched in 1988 and the scale of cases of mumps, measles and rubella has dropped dramatically. In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of cases of measles and experts believe that this is due to parents not vaccinating their children due to speculation about a link between the MMR injection and autism.

When is the MMR vaccine given?

The MMR vaccine is given in two doses. The first dose is done at the age of 12-13 months and the second dose takes place at the age of 3 years, 4 months (or soon after). A booster injection may also be given to teenagers, pregnant women and anyone who is planning to start university or enter the military. The MMR jab may also be advised for prisoners.

The MMR vaccine may also be given to people in the event of an outbreak of mumps or measles.

Is the vaccine safe?

There has been panic surrounding the safety of the MMR vaccine because it was claimed that there was a link between the MMR jab and autism. Nevertheless, no evidence exists to back up this theory and doctors are eager for parents to have their children immunised to prevent cases of mumps, measles and rubella becoming more common. All vaccines available through the vaccination programme are tested to the maximum level, in order to ensure the plusses of having them are considerably higher that the negatives. Studies carried out since claims were made about a possible link between the MMR vaccination and autism and bowel diseases have found that there is no connection. The doctor who suggested the link has been charged with serious professional misconduct.

If you are concerned about your child having the MMR vaccine or you wish to learn more about the injection, speak to your GP or practice nurse.

Side-effects of the MMR vaccine

Side-effects are more common after the first dose than the second dose. Early effects (1-11 days after the MMR) resemble a mild form of measles, with side-effects including:

  • Rash.
  • Slightly raised temperature.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Generally feeling unwell.

3-4 weeks after MMR symptoms reveal a mild form of mumps and include:

  • Swollen glands in the neck.

About mumps, measles and rubella

Mumps, measles and rubella are all highly contagious infections which can cause serious complications, including meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain tissue) and permanent deafness.

Measles: measles is a viral infection which can potentially be serious and even life-threatening. Measles causes symptoms including ear infections, diarrhoea, bronchitis and brain damage.

Mumps: mumps is a very serious condition which can cause meningitis in children. It may also cause deafness, pancreatitis, miscarriage and pain in the testicles for men.

Rubella: rubella causes symptoms including painful joints, encephalitis and blood disorders. It can be particularly damaging for pregnant women because rubella can result in miscarriage or congenital rubella syndrome, which can cause babies to experience hearing and sight problems and suffer from heart problems. Women who are thinking about having a baby are advised to have the MMR vaccination if they have not had it before.

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