The Truth About the MMR Vaccine
MMR Vaccine: What You Need to Know
The MMR vaccine, which helps prevent the measles, mumps, and rubella, is no stranger to controversy. First licensed in the U.S. in 1971, the vaccine has been rumored to cause serious health risks in children, including autism and bowel disease. Yet, mounting research, including studies published in Paediatrics and Child Health shows that the MMR has no connection with these conditions.
Click "next" to learn more about the MMR vaccine.
What the MMR Vaccine Does
The MMR protects against three major diseases:
- measles: rash, cough, runny nose, and fever, and can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, and ear infections
- mumps: fever, headache, and swollen glands; complications include deafness and meningitis
- rubella (German measles): rash, mild fever, and arthritis; serious concerns for pregnant women include miscarriage or possible birth defects
Who Should Get the MMR Vaccine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended ages for getting the MMR vaccine include:
- children: 12 to 15 months old (first dose)
- children: 4 to 6 years old (second dose)
- adults: 18 years or older (born after 1956) should receive one dose
Who Should Not Get the MMR Vaccine
The CDC provides a list of those who should not get the MMR vaccine. Criteria include:
- if you’ve had a previous life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, or to a past dose of MMR
- if you’re currently suffering a moderate-to-severe illness (let the illness pass before getting a shot)
- if you’re pregnant
- if you have HIV/AIDS, or another immune system disorder
- if you have cancer or are receiving cancer treatments
The MMR Vaccine and Autism
According to the BBC, Britain saw a decline in MMR vaccination rates when the vaccine was purported to cause autism. While autism cases grew in Britain during the ‘80s and ‘90s, they did not rise significantly, and the controversy was largely contained to the U.K. Subsequent articles published in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) both reported no connection between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism.
Recent MMR Research
Several studies have examined the MMR-autism link—based on the increase of autism cases since 1979. The Western Journal of Medicine reports that “although the number of cases of autism diagnosed has been rising since 1979, no sudden increase in the incidence of autism occurred after the introduction of MMR. The increase in the number of cases of autism since 1979 is most likely due to changes in diagnostic criteria [and not the MMR vaccine].”
MMR Vaccine Side Effects
The Institute of Medicine, Medical Research Council, and World Health Organization all agree: there remains little supported evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism. And while there are possible side effects, the CDC states that “getting the MMR vaccine is much safer than getting any of the three diseases.”
Side effects range from minor (fever and mild rash) to moderate concerns (pain and stiffness of the joints, seizure, and low platelet count) to serious concerns (allergic reaction).
Weighing the Risks
One in six children develops a fever following the MMR vaccine. One in 3,000 develop febrile seizures according to the CDC. While parents fear for their child’s safety, medical professionals emphasize the benefits of immunization to fight possible outbreaks of measles and other diseases.
Learn More about MMR
According to the CDC, vaccines have significantly reduced the outbreaks of many preventable infectious diseases. Nevertheless, parents and patients concerned about the safety of vaccinations should stay informed and always examine the risks and benefits of any medical procedure. To learn more, read the following: