Few treatments have received the media attention and controversy that the MMR vaccine has, and in this article we look at the vaccine, how it works, and where the concerns about the vaccine’s safety have come from.
What is the MMR vaccine?
MMR stands for measles, mumps, and rubella, and the MMR vaccine is a protective treatment that works against all three of these diseases. The vaccine is a relatively recent one having first been developed in the 1960s. All three conditions treated by this vaccine are not only highly contagious, but can cause a number of serious complications including deafness, pregnancy complications (including miscarriage), encephalitis, and meningitis.
The MMR vaccine is a mixture of attenuated (weakened) versions of the viruses responsible for measles, mumps, and rubella. Attenuated viruses are ‘safe’ versions of the live disease causing agent, and work to induce the natural defensive response of the immune system against the infection. In doing so, the vaccine prepares the immune system for exposure to the original, wild-type viruses, so that if a child is infected with the condition their body will be able to adequately defend against it.
The vaccine is administered via injection to children around the age of one, and a second dose is usually provided before schooling begins (around the age of 3 years and four months in the UK). The first dose is usually enough to immunise most children, however the second is designed to supplement this protective effect amongst those who don’t develop an immunity against measles after the first dose.
MMR is widely used across the world and since its creation an estimated 500 million doses have been used. It is known by a number of different trade names including MMRII, Tresivac, Trimovax, and Priorix.
How effective is the MMR vaccine?
Measles is a highly contagious infection that spread rapidly and affected children across the world. Since the introduction of the MMR vaccine however, the prevalence of the measles infection has dropped to under 1% in countries where this treatment is provided as part of a routine childhood immunisation programme.
Mumps and rubella were also extremely infectious diseases spread across the world before the introduction of the MMR vaccine. Evidence for the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine in preventing cases of measles, mumps, and rubella is clear, and without the widespread use of this vaccine these diseases would still affect a significant portion of the population.
Following concerns about the safety of the MMR vaccine, incidences of measles in the UK have increased. This trend is thought to reflect a decrease in the usage of the vaccine by parents worried about the vaccine. This is a major concern to health authorities as a lapse in the vaccination programme could result in a measles epidemic.
How is the MMR vaccine supplied in the UK?
The MMR vaccination is part of the routine childhood vaccination programme used by the NHS to protect children from measles, mumps, and rubella. This particular vaccine is provided, as mentioned previously, at one and three years of age.
Controversy Surrounding the MMR Vaccine
In 1998 Dr Andrew Wakefield published a study which linked the MMR vaccine to incidences of autism and bowel conditions. This led to a controversy surrounding the use of the MMR vaccine which has, since then, led to a potential decline in the uptake of the vaccine. Since Dr Wakefield’s initial report, his findings have been thoroughly discredited and it has now been shown that the MMR vaccination has no connection to incidences of bowel disease or autism.
Why are three conditions vaccinated against with MMR?
The MMR vaccine is a combination treatment that offers its protection against three distinct conditions. The vaccine is designed in this way to spare children the unnecessary pain of three separate injections.
It is possible to receive single injections for these conditions if you so wish, however these are not provided by the NHS because of concerns that children would not receive the three vaccinations they need to be protected from all three conditions.
Are there any side effects to the MMR vaccine?
Side effects of the MMR vaccine are extremely mild, but because three different vaccines are essentially rolled into one, you can potentially experience three sets of side effects that kick in at different times.
Sometimes a mild version of either measles or mumps develops, and the former normally clears within three days, while the latter takes a day or two to pass. In some cases a collection of spots that closely resemble bruises can appear, and in this case you should speak to your doctor about your concerns as soon as possible.
Why is the MMR vaccine important?
The childhood immunisation programme is an important tool in the NHS’ arsenal. It provides much needed protection against what can be devastating infections, and here we look at why the MMR vaccine is provided in the UK as a routine part of this programme.
How is the MMR Vaccine Made?
The MMR vaccine an essential part of the NHS’ childhood vaccination programme. Without this programme, children across the UK would suffer from the three highly contagious conditions which MMR protects against: Measles, mumps, and rubella. These are the three conditions from which the MMR vaccine derives its name. The MMR vaccine is used across the world, and under its regular use, measles, mumps, and rubella have virtually disappeared in the UK. In this article we look at how the MMR vaccine is made and why it is such an effective method of immunising children against these conditions.
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