The MMR vaccine. What’s all the fuss about?

Over the years there has been a lot of discussions about vaccinations. There are a wide range of vaccinations available for children in the UK, which you can find out more about in our previous blog post here. Today, we wanted to focus on the MMR vaccine and tell you a little bit about what it is and why we need it.

What is the MMR vaccine?                             

MMR stands for Measles, Mumps and Rubella and the vaccine protects against those 3 specific diseases. It’s a common part of the NHS childhood immunisation programme, given to all children through the NHS or privately, unless parents specifically choose not to give it. The MMR vaccine protects children from those three diseases, giving them immunity to catching it or spreading it.

The MMR vaccine is given in two doses.  The first dose is usually offered to all children after their first birthday and the second dose given before they start school, usually around three and a half years old.  It is very important to have both vaccines in order to be fully immunised.

If there is an urgent need, like an outbreak of measles as we are currently experiencing in some parts of the country, then the vaccine can be given to babies from six months old, older children and adults.

Why do we need the MMR vaccine

We need the MMR vaccine to protect against these 3 dangerous and highly contagious diseases. Here is an overview of symptoms of each disease:-

Measles: Measles is a highly infectious viral illness.  You can expect to have cold-like symptoms, sore, red eyes, light sensitivity, a fever, small greyish spots in the mouth and a blotchy red rash on the skin. It’s very unpleasant to suffer, and usually lasts around 7 to 10 days.  It can lead to some serious complications, including pneumonia, brain infection and even death in 10% of cases. Anyone can get the measles if they haven’t had it before or been vaccinated against it. Although it is quite uncommon in the UK there have been small outbreaks due to a growing trend of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children against it.

Mumps: Mumps is another highly contagious, viral infection that used to be very common in children before the MMR. It causes severe and painful swelling on the sides of the face under the ears in the parotid glands,  causing headaches, joint pain and a high fever. Again, the virus and infection can pass on its own, but there are some pretty serious and common complications, including swollen testicles or ovaries, viral meningitis (in 1 out of 7 cases), pancreatitis (in 1 out of 20 cases), encephalitis (in 1 in 1,000 cases).

Rubella: Rubella is essentially a form of German measles, commonly known for its angry, red spotty rash. Rubella can also cause aching joints, fever, cough, sneezing, headaches, red eyes and swollen glands. It usually takes around 2-3 weeks for the rash to appear after getting Rubella and lasts about 3 days. Complications include testicular swelling, nerve inflammation and some women may experience arthritis of the fingers, wrists and knees, which can last for a month. 

It is highly contagious and very dangerous for pregnant women as it can cause serious birth defects.

Who should have it?

As previously mentioned this vaccine is a routine part of the immunisations programme given by the NHS to all children. However adults should also have the MMR vaccine if they didn’t receive it in childhood and it is very important for teenagers leaving home for college to be up to date with the MMR vaccine as they are at higher risk of catching mumps.

There are only a few reasons your child shouldn’t have the MMR vaccine, but they are very specific and rare and include:

  • If your child is taking high dose steroid tablets, or lower doses along with other drugs for a long time.
  • If they have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine (in which case you should speak to your doctor).
  • Is having chemotherapy or radiotherapy currently, or have had it in the last 6 months.
  • Has had an organ transplant, or is on immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Has had a bone marrow transplant. If they have, they need to have finished all immunosuppressive therapy and be clear for 12 months.
  • Have a lowered immune system.

It is not uncommon for children to have side effects after vaccinations and therefore you may want to give them medicine if they have a fever or are in pain. 

In these situations we recommend the Medi-Redi storage timer.  This handy device gives you a safe place to store medicines and it will clearly indicate when it’s safe to give the next dose of medicine. No more missing a dose or worrying about duplicating a dose. To order yours today, just click here.