When it comes to immunisation of babies, the MMR is the one vaccine that is discussed over & over due to the negative press it has received over the past 10 years. Even now, following more favourable press, most parents will ask more questions when it comes to this vaccine than they do for any of the others that their baby may receive.
The MMR contains live particles of the diseases but they have been modified in order for the recipient not to be exposed to the full impact of the disease. In South Africa, the MMR is administered at 15 months and again at 5 years which should guarantee life long immunity to all 3 of the diseases.
When the 1st dose is administered, the child receives 90% protection against measles and mumps & 97% immunisation against rubella. Following the administration of the 2nd dose, the child will have 99% immunity to all 3 diseases:
- Measles: highly contagious disease & secondary infections include ear infections; pneumonia; eye infections; encephalitis and even death
- Mumps: can also contract meningitis which may result in deafness. Boys who contract mumps post puberty may also develop orchitis which may cause sterility
- Rubella: if contracted during pregnancy, the foetus may develop congenital rubella which may result in congenital defects
Most vaccines do have some side effects which can usually be managed with paracetamol. Side effects of the MMR include:
- Increased temperature, malaise, cold like symptoms, loss of appetite and rash approximately 7 – 10 days post vaccination
- Increased temperature & swollen neck glands approximately 21 – 28 days post vaccination
- Autism – the debate.
Most parents, when hearing MMR ask the question “What about autism? Is there a link?”. In 1998 a doctor in England, Dr Andrew Wakefield did a study involving 12 children & concluded that there was a link between bowel symptoms as well as autism in children who had received the MMR vaccine.
Because of this negative publicity, the rate of MMR administration in the UK dropped & the incidence of measles increased. Further research that has been done on much larger groups of children have found that there is no positive link between autism & MMR. (In Japan, the vaccine was withdrawn & the incidence of autism has continued to rise showing thus also proving the research was unfounded.)
Often autism is diagnosed at around the same age that the MMR is administered as this is the age that children should start displaying social skills, thus it can be understood why parents may blame the two as having a link.
Most medical professionals would say that the risks of contracting either measles, mumps or rubella far outweigh the documented side effects of these vaccines but as a parent, if you are still unsure or in doubt, chat to your paediatrician or clinic sister in order to put your mind at ease.
Information provided by Arlaine Noxenham, Babies on Broadway.
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