The MMR vaccine is a combined 3-in-1 vaccine that protects children against these viral diseases: measles, mumps and rubella. All three of these diseases can be quite serious. It is for this reason that children in the United States are required to receive MMR vaccines before entering school. Keep reading to learn about these vaccines, the MMR vaccine schedule and MMR side effects.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella
The main sign of measles is a red, dotted rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. This rash is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Pink eye
- Runny nose.
Possible complications of measles may include pneumonia and encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
Mumps is characterized by swelling of the salivary glands just beneath the ears, which causes the tell-tale “chipmunk cheeks” associated with the disease. Mumps can lead to conditions such as:
- Male infertility
Rubella, also known as German measles, causes a mild facial rash as well as swollen glands behind the ears. It can also cause swelling of joints and a low-grade fever. Rubella is usually mild in children, but can be quite serious for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Typical MMR Vaccine Schedule
The first dose of the MMR vaccine is given between 12 and 16 months. If given too early, the shot may be ineffective, and the child may not be properly protected. A second dose is usually received between 4 and 6 years of age; though many states require it be given before a child can enter kindergarten.
MMR Side Effects
The vaccine is generally safe and adequately protects individuals from all three diseases. However, like most vaccines, MMR vaccines have been known to cause side effects in some children. Side effects may include:
- Joint pain/stiffness
- Swollen glands.
More serious, but rare, side effects may also been seen, such as:
- Long-term seizure
- Severe allergic reaction.
Vaccines, MMR and Autism
There has been much concern about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. MMR does not cause autism, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). While many studies have suggested a correlation between the two, the NICHD claims that these studies provide no scientific proof of a link. The NICHD cites numerous studies that give evidence that there is no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, and the agency states that additional research is in progress.
The MMR vaccine protects children against diseases that are just as serious and life-altering as autism. Children with a mild illness or fever may be better off waiting until they are better to receive the vaccine, as should those with allergies or immune disorders that could cause the vaccine to be less effective. Talk to your child’s doctor to determine whether or not to get vaccinated.
Kaneshiro, N. and Zieve, D. (2009). MMR vaccine. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/autismMMR.pdf.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Staff. (2001). Autism and the MMR vaccine. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the NICHD Web site: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/autismMMR.pdf.
Vogin, G. (2009). Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the WebMD Web site: http://children.webmd.com/vaccines/measles-mumps-and-rubella-mmr-vaccine.