The MMR Vaccine - Hard Facts to the Dangerous Half-Truths
There are many misconceptions regarding the MMR vaccine. Read on to know the evidence-based facts that clear up the so-called cause of autism in children.
In light of the measles outbreak that started in January 2014 and affected over 20,000 people in the Philippines within 3 months, it's only apt clear up the recurring concerns, some perpetuated by rumors and unfounded fears, regarding the MMR vaccine.
Below are some common misconceptions and their evidence-based explanations:
The MMR vaccine causes autism.
No, it doesn't.
The controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine started when a former doctor, Andrew Wakefield, wrote a paper in 1998 hypothesizing the association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The observation is to be expected because MMR is administered within months before children are diagnosed with autism. The first dose of the MMR vaccine is recommended at 12 months of age, while autism is usually identified when the child is around 18 to 30 months of age.
“However, determination of whether MMR causes autism is best made by studying the incidence of autism in both vaccinated and unvaccinated children. This wasn't done,” clarifies the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Science-backed studies have since disproven Wakefield’s claim, with evidence showing that autism has no link to the MMR vaccine and may even start in utero. The study by Wakefield was retracted in 2010 from The Lancet, where it was originally published.
The MMR diseases are quite mild, so my child doesn’t really need to be vaccinated against them.
The MMR diseases are not just mild; they potentially pose serious health risks, even death.
Measles causes rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation and fever – and can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death.
Mumps causes fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite and swollen glands – and can lead to deafness, meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and painful swelling of ovaries and testicles (which can then lead to sterility, though rarely).
Rubella causes rash, arthritis and mild fever – and it can be extremely hazardous to pregnant women, leading to severe complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and birth defects.
What’s important to note also is that the MMR diseases are very contagious. All three are spread through air from person to person.
The measles outbreak declared in January 2014 is particularly alarming. Between January 1 and March 20, 2014, there were 17,630 suspected cases, 3,706 confirmed cases and 69 measles deaths in the Philippines.
For every case of measles, as many as 18 individuals can get infected. An early report by the Department of Health identified that 33% of the confirmed measles cases belonged to the 1- to 4-year old age group.
The MMR vaccine protects your child. According to the National Network for Immunization Information (US), 95% of those given the MMR or monovalent measles vaccine at 12 months of age or older are immune after the first dose; 99.7% are immune after the second dose. This immunity is for your child’s lifetime.
It’s safer to administer the vaccines separately because it lessens the risk of harmful side effects and overloading the child’s immune system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA), “The available scientific data show that simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system.”
In fact, the list of vaccinations a newborn is subjected to so quickly and throughout the first year may look overwhelming, but it is perfectly alright. Babies are already exposed to thousands of germs and antigens as soon as they are born; their immune system is more than ready to respond to both these environmental antigens and the ones that are used in vaccines.
If your doctor gives the measles vaccine separately and ahead at eight months old, the MMR vaccine is usually administered at 13 to 15 months of age and again at four to six years old.
Like any medicine, there are minimal risks that come with vaccination. Still, the MMR vaccine is a much safer alternative for your child than the risks that come with measles, mumps or rubella. Most children who get MMR vaccine do not have any side effects.
If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the MMR vaccine, please share them in our Comments box below!