The MMR Vaccine

Today, the number of deaths from measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has been greatly reduced thanks to the MMR vaccine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the number of deaths from measles has dropped by 74%, from 535,300 to 139,300 between 2000 and 2010.

Since 1971, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has played an instrumental role in protecting lives worldwide. Its efficiency encouraged the Ministry of Health to replace the old measles vaccine with the MMR vaccine in 2002. This vaccine is given to children at one year of age and a second dose is given at 7 years of age.

Unfortunately, in recent years, there are people who begin to doubt the usefulness of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Some parents are refusing to have their children immunised against measles, mumps and rubella, which saw a surge of the number of measles cases in Malaysia, from 68 cases in 2010 to 1,378 cases in 2011. This puts all Malaysian children at risk.

In this article, we hope to help parents understand that the MMR vaccine is a safe and effective that can deal with the triple threat posed by measles, mumps and rubella. This is evidenced from numerous extensive studies, trials and reviews over the years. We also hope to clear up any rumours and misconceptions surrounding the vaccine, so that every parent will feel confident about immunising their child with the MMR vaccine.

Before the measles, mumps and rubella became available in 1988, vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella were given separately in a total of 3 shots and 3 boosters.

This meant that a child would receive a staggering total of 6 shots in order to be protected against these 3 diseases. More shots also meant more chances of children missing out on receiving the complete number of jabs, rendering them susceptible to these infections.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine solves this problem. It is a combination vaccine incorporating all 3 diseases, reducing not only the number of shots but also the chances of missing any doses.

The vaccine is made from weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses. It works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella. This will enable your immune system to recognise all three diseases, should you come into contact with any of them, and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight them.

When the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was first introduced, it came as a single dose and clinical trials showed it provided 85-90% protection against measles, mumps and rubella. However, a second dose was shortly introduced after as it was found to boost protection against measles up to 95-98% and provide immunity to children who had not responded to the first dose. This is why children today are given a second dose at 7 years of age.

MMR vaccine in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the MMR vaccine consists of two doses and is given as part of the National Immunisation Programme (NIP). The first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given at the age of 12 months. A second dose is given at 7 years. The vaccine is available at government as well as private clinics and hospitals.

In Sabah, a stand-alone measles vaccine is given at 6 months of age in addition to the MMR vaccine.

With the NIP, Malaysia has managed to achieve a high immunisation coverage rate of 95% for the MMR vaccine since 2009.

However this positive trend has suffered setbacks in recent times with an increasing minority choosing not to immunise their children. This could have contributed to the resurgence of measles cases in 2011 here in Malaysia. If the coverage rate of measles, mumps and rubella immunisation continues to drop, we may see a resurgence of measles, mumps and rubella cases in this country.

Known side effects

Most children who receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine will not experience any side-effects. For some children, however, common mild reactions that could occur include soreness, redness and swelling at the site of injection. Other side-effects include a mild rash, mild to moderate fevers, swelling of the lymph glands, and temporary swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints.

In some cases, children may develop a high fever about 7 to 12 days after the vaccine has been administered. This can lead to febrile seizures but such cases are very rare.

Setting The Record Straight

In this section, let’s take a look at some common rumours and misconceptions about the MMR vaccine.

  • MMR vaccine is unsafe as it contains mercury, harmful ingredient.

The MMR vaccine does not and has never contained any mercury.

  • MMR vaccine causes children to become autistic or suffer from other neurological disorders.

This is not true. Numerous studies in multiple countries have shown that there is no evidence linking MMR vaccine to autism in children.