The measles vaccine
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should be given to all children, as it can potentially protect them from three serious viruses, mumps being one of the more commonly known. The vaccine is two-part, the first dose (injection) takes place between 12 and 15 months of age in children and the second between the ages of four and six. Adults can also have the vaccine in at least one dose with a follow-up booster as required.
Speak to your doctor should you be at risk or if you are born during or after 1957. If you are unsure of whether you have been vaccinated and do not have written documentation of your vaccination, you should consult with your doctor and possibly get vaccinated.
Your doctor is also able to test your blood for immunity to the virus, this is known as a measles titer blood test, which shows your level of immunity to the virus and whether or not you require a vaccination but there is also no harm in getting vaccinated if you are already immune. A titer is a lab test to see what the measurement of antibodies are in the blood, it may be used to show immunity to a certain disease. The blood test is taken and if the result is positive, the person is immune.
Some parents may feel that getting their children vaccinated may lead to autism, but there is no accurate scientific research to prove this. The vaccine ingredient thimerosal, which is a preservative used in some MMR vaccines was once thought to be the cause of autism. However, since such claims, the findings have been considered as unjustified and fraudulent.
Due to an increase in vaccinations over the past few decades, the overall cases of measles worldwide have dropped, however, due to the contagiousness of the virus, it is still vital to get vaccinated in order to ensure that the cases of infections do not rise again and continue to drop.
That said, due to highly publicised claims linking the measles vaccine to autism in recent years, some parents have declined to vaccinate their children and as such, the measles infection rate in the U.S has increased. Sadly, due to the lower incidences of measles cases, many parents fail to remember the serious consequences that the virus can have, especially for pregnant women and children. Therefore, it is best to get you and your child vaccinated so as to avoid infection and spread of the virus.
Some parents do not vaccinate their children in the fear that the vaccine may have other adverse side effects, although most children and adults who are vaccinated do not experience any side effects. The most common side effect is a swelling or redness at the place of the injection. However, some more uncommon side effects may include:
- One in five children contract a fever
- A rash may develop in one in 20 children or adults
- Swelling of the glands happens to about one in seven people
- Joint pain may occur in one in 100 people, this is more common for women
- Low platelet count which results in severe bleeding, this only happens to one in 30 000 people
- Encephalitis occurs in one in one million people
It is important to remember that the odds of experiencing any side effects are minimal, but if left unvaccinated, it is estimated that 90% of people will be exposed to the measles virus at some point in their life.