MMR Vaccine Administration in the UK

Every child in the UK is entitled to a set of vaccinations designed to immunise them against a collection of the most common and virulent diseases they might be exposed to. This vaccination programme is an integral part of healthcare in the developed world, and has had a dramatic effect on public health ever since its introduction.

One of the vaccines provided by the NHS childhood vaccination programme is the MMR vaccine, in this article we look at the part this particular vaccination has to play in the delivery of the NHS childhood vaccination programme?

Why is the MMR Vaccine a part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme?

The MMR Vaccine is given as a single injection, but the treatment is actually comprised of three different vaccinations that protect against three separate conditions. These are the three conditions from which the vaccine draws its name, measles, mumps, and rubella.

All three illnesses are highly contagious, and can lead to serious complications. Measles for example, can result in severe brain damage, if not death, while mumps can lead to sub- and infertility in men. Before widespread vaccination came into practice, these diseases were extremely prevalent in the UK and across the world. Because all three conditions are readily spread through contact with fluids in the respiratory tract (sneezing and coughing), they can spread within a community very quickly. Measles is so infectious that any encounter with someone suffering from the disease is thought to present a 90% chance of infection.

Fortunately the introduction of the MMR vaccine has helped reduce the incidence of measles, mumps, and rubella. The hope is that with further vaccination, measles and perhaps other conditions vaccinated against by the MMR will be eliminated in the coming years.

The MMR Vaccine in the NHS programme

The MMR vaccine is given twice under the NHS programme, once at about 12 months of age, and secondly just before a child goes to school at around the age of 3-4. The first dose is given at that point because after birth a baby carries some of his or her mother’s immunity, and this can protect against measles, mumps, and rubella. At around 12 months the maternal antibodies (defensive molecules inherited by a baby) will decline in number and the child often becomes vulnerable to infection.

About 90% of the individuals vaccinated against MMR actually become immune after the first dose. The MMR vaccine is composed of three attenuated virus vaccines, and this particular type of vaccine induces a very strong response from your body’s defences, making it a very effective method of immunisation. The second dose is given to make sure that those people who don’t receive the full immunity often conferred by the first dose do so by the second.

Uptake of the MMR Vaccine

The NHS vaccination programme is optional, even though it is highly recommended because of the level of protection offered by the programme from dangerous diseases. Recent controversies surrounding the safety of the MMR vaccine have led to a decrease in the uptake of the vaccine, despite the fact that MMR has since been confirmed to be perfectly safe. One of the consequences of this decrease in the uptake of the vaccine has been a recent increase in the number of cases of measles in England Wales, with just under 500 cases confirmed by laboratory testing in the first 5 months of 2011.

Regular MMR vaccination contributes to a reduction in the incidence of all three diseases (measles, mumps, and rubella). Unfortunately if people stop taking the vaccine, they help the viruses causing these diseases to flourish and spread, increasing the number of cases reported. The protective effect of vaccinations extends to the wider community, and so when the number of vaccinations declines more people suffer.

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