What You Need to Know about the MMR Vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

In Singapore, the Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR) vaccine is offered to children after their first birthday as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS). Given in two doses, the vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella which are highly contagious childhood diseases that can lead to serious complications in children and even death, in the case of measles.

Your child is required to complete the MMR vaccination upon registering for primary school. For adults who have not had the vaccination or any of the diseases, it is highly recommended that they consult their doctor and get covered as soon as possible.

What are Measles, Mumps and Rubella?

mmr vaccine

A rash due to rubella (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Measles, Mumps and Rubella are viral diseases which can be very serious.

Measles develops as a red, pinpoint rash that starts from the face and spreads to the rest of the body. This is often accompanied by symptoms such as a fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Measles in older children can lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can cause seizures and brain damage.

The mumps virus causes swelling in the glands just below the ears, and often gives the appearance of “chipmunk cheeks”. Before the vaccine was created, mumps was the most common cause of meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and deafness. In men, mumps can infect the testicles which may lead to infertility.

Rubella, or more commonly known as German measles, presents itself in the form of a mild rash on the face and swelling of the glands behind the ears. In some cases, it can also cause swelling of the small joints and is accompanied by a low-grade fever. In most cases, children recover from rubella quickly with no lasting effects. However, pregnant women who get infected with this disease – especially in the first trimester – have a 20% chance of putting their child at risk of birth defects such as blindness, deafness, a heart defect or mental retardation.

Risks and side effects of the MMR vaccine

Apart from fever or minor soreness and redness at the injection site, most people who receive the MMR vaccine do not experience any side effects.

Other possible side effects of the vaccine include:

  • Swollen glands
  • Seizure
  • Joint pain/stiffness
  • Low platelet count/bleeding
  • Encephalitis (Inflammation of the brain caused by infection or an allergic reaction)

In recent years, there have been speculations that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism in children. However, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms that there is no evidence to support that claim. In fact, the benefits that the vaccine brings in preventing the disease far outweigh any potential risks.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Although it is highly recommended that both adults (especially those who have not had the vaccine or disease in the past) and children receive the MMR vaccine for disease prevention, there are certain circumstances whereby getting vaccinated may pose health risks to the individual.

These include:

  • A severe allergic reaction following the first MMR shot
  • An allergy towards gelatin or neomycin (an antibiotic found in various topical medication such as creams, ointments and eye drops)
  • If you may be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant in the next 4 weeks (Do take note that the vaccine is safe if you are breastfeeding)
  • A weak immune system due to cancer drugs, corticosteroids or AIDS

It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor for advice before scheduling any vaccination for yourself and your family.

 

Reviewed by Dr Herbert Tan, General Practitioner and Resident Doctor of MindChamps Medical @ OneKM.

 

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