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Health Wise: The facts about MMR vaccinations

The occupational health services that we offer to businesses make sure that people are well-informed when it comes to their own health and well-being, but it’s also important to ensure that they have all the details when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their family.

Public Health England recently raised concerns about the number of people missing out on their MMR vaccines.

There has been a lot of misconceptions and confusion surrounding MMR vaccinations so we’ve decided to share some facts that will help to bust some of the myths surrounding the MMR vaccine and show just how important it is.

The MMR Vaccine Scare

Due to a study that caused panic among parents, huge numbers of children who are now adolescents and young adults were never vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

The media frenzy that followed the publication of a controversial study by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 meant that take-up of the vaccine was severely affected.

The publication claimed that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Wakefield’s work has since been completely discredited and he was struck off as a doctor in the UK.

As a result, infants who didn’t receive a vaccine are now catching measles as adolescents and there has also been a significant increase in mumps cases.

We may also see future outbreaks of rubella, also known as German measles, in this age group, which is a particular concern as they reach childbearing age.

Usually a mild disease, rubella can be catastrophic if caught in the early stages of pregnancy, causing serious vision, hearing, heart, and learning problems in the unborn baby.

MMR Vaccinations: The Facts

Given the potential consequences of this unnecessary panic, it’s hugely important that parents, adolescents and anyone planning a family is aware of just how important the MMR vaccine is.

Here are the facts about MMR vaccinations.

What is MMR?

MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against 3 separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection.

The full course of MMR vaccination requires 2 doses.

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious conditions that can have serious, potentially fatal complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness.

They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.

Why is the MMR vaccine important?

Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, it’s rare for children in the UK to develop these serious conditions.

However, outbreaks happen and there have been cases of measles in recent years, so it’s important to make sure that you and your children are up-to-date with the MMR vaccination.

Experts are reminding people that measles is not a trivial disease and can kill those with weak immune systems.

How does the MMR vaccine work?

The MMR vaccine contains weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses.

It works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella.

If you or your child comes into contact with one of the diseases, the immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it.

It’s not possible for people who have recently had the MMR vaccine to infect other people.

Side effects of the MMR vaccine

As there are 3 separate vaccines within a single injection, different side effects can occur at different times but they are usually mild and a lot less severe than the potential complications of measles, mumps and rubella.

Side effects can include:

  • developing a mild form of measles that lasts for 2 to 3 days (this is not infectious)
  • developing a mild form of mumps that lasts for a day or two (this is not infectious)

In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots may appear a few weeks after the injection.

If you notice this kind of rash or have any concerns about your child’s symptoms, see your GP.

What is the usual procedure for MMR?

The MMR vaccine is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday.

They’ll then have a second injection of the vaccine before starting school, usually at 3 years and 4 months.

Babies under 6 months old are not routinely given the MMR vaccine. This is because the antibodies to measles, mumps and rubella passed from mother to baby at the time of birth are retained and can make the vaccine ineffective.

However, it can sometimes be given to babies from 6 months of age if they have been exposed to the measles virus, or during a measles outbreak.

MMR for women planning pregnancy

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to check that you’re fully protected against measles, mumps and rubella.

Rubella infection in pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects and miscarriage.

The MMR vaccine is not suitable for women who are already pregnant and you should avoid becoming pregnant for 1 month after having MMR vaccination.

What if you are not protected from MMR?

In some cases, the full MMR may not have been given to certain people, depending on their age.

The MMR vaccine can be given on the NHS to adults who:

  • Were born between 1970 and 1979 and may have only been vaccinated against measles
  • Were born from 1980 to 1990 and may not be protected against mumps

The advice from Public Health England is that anyone who missed their MMR vaccine should see a GP, especially if you are considering travel within Europe, which has seen outbreaks of measles in recent years.

If you’re not sure whether you have had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, ask your GP practice to check.

If you have not had both doses or there’s no record available, you can have the vaccinations at your GP practice.

Even if you have had it before, it won’t harm you to have a second, or even third, course of the vaccination.

Vaccination programmes are hugely important. If you’d like to find out how our occupational health specialists can help to raise awareness of health and wellbeing in your workplace, get in touch with the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: Health & WellbeingHealth WiseOccupational Health

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