Why the MMR Vaccine is Needed

Before the introduction of the MMR vaccine as a routine part of childhood vaccination programmes, all three conditions, measles, mumps, and rubella, were prevalent amongst children and highly contagious. The vaccination programme has done a remarkable job of cutting down the incidence of the disease to the point that infections barely occur. In this article the conditions that the MMR vaccine protects against are described in more detail to provide a better understanding of why the vaccine is such an important part of modern vaccination.


Measles can be found across the world and often affects children at a young age. The condition can sometimes strike during adulthood, but most incidences occur at a young age. This disease can be fatal in some cases, and is highly contagious.

The symptoms include diarrhoea, bronchitis, fits and a noticeable rash, and the condition can potentially cause severe brain damage. As evidenced by its symptoms, measles is a very dangerous disease that is caused by a virus.

The primary method of measles infection is through the respiratory tract. Infection is likely through contact with mucus or fluids from the nose or mouth of a person suffering from measles. This contact can either be direct or through sneezing or coughing (aerosol transmission). The virus is so contagious that non-vaccinated people stand a 90% chance of catching it if they come into contact with a measles infected person.

Measles is further complicated by the fact that there is no treatment. In many cases the infection can be extremely straightforward, resolving itself with some bed rest. However complications are a highly probable consequence of a measles infection. Complications include pneumonia or bronchitis, both infections of the respiratory tract (breathing system), and encephalitis (the potentially fatal swelling of the brain). These conditions can be treated and must be managed with careful medical attention.


The mumps may sound like an unassuming infection, but it is a very potent viral infection that remains a serious health risk for children living in developing countries. Mumps are typified by a visible and often painful swelling of salivary glands, which may be accompanied by a rash and/or orchitis (swelling of the testicles). Unlike measles however, mumps are less severe in children, but pose a serious threat to adult and teenage males. The disease can cause fertility issues, however treatment remains elusive, and the infection runs its course on its own.

Like measles, mumps are primarily spread through contact with secretions from the respiratory tract. The mumps virus can actually survive on surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed upon, and once a person is infected with the disease, they are contagious from about a week after their symptoms begin for about 3 weeks.


Rubella is often referred to as the German measles, and is caused by the rubella virus. The condition is by no means limited to Germany, and is known by the name ‘German measles’ because it was first discovered by German scientists.

Infection with Rubella causes a distinctive rash on the face, body, and limbs, which typically lasts about three days. The rash is often accompanied by a mild fever, headache, pain in the joints, and swollen glands or lymph nodes.

Rubella can affect anyone of any age, and its severity increases as the age of the infected person increases. The virus is also quit contagious and is also spread through respiratory secretions from infected people.

The MMR vaccine has dramatically reduced the impact of these once commonplace diseases, and in doing so has saved countless people from potentially severe and life threatening disease.

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