The MMR vaccine – your questions answered

Professor David Salisbury joined us to answer some of the FAQs posted by users concerning the MMR vaccination.

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BABYEXPERT PROMOTION

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Professor David Salisbury is the Department of Health’s Director of Immunisation with years of experience working with, researching and giving advice on childhood jabs like MMR.

Q: I have a nine year old who didn’t have the vaccine first time around, is it too late to have it done now?

It’s definitely not too late for your nine year old to get it done. Contact your GP and arrange to have his first MMR jab, he will need a second dose three months later.

Q: My 14-month-old has only had one MMR vaccination so far, does this mean he is still at risk from contact with another child who may be incubating measles?

The measles vaccine protects about 90% of children with one dose, a bit more for rubella and a bit less for mumps. This means that children will not be fully protected against all three viruses on all occasions, so the best answer is to recommend a second dose of MMR at about three and a half years of age and certainly before they start school.

Q: My daughter is 13 months and due her first dose of MMR shortly, around the same time as her swine flu jab. I am apprehensive about giving them both to her within a short space of time – what do you advise?

There is no problem about giving them at the same time, or on separate occasions, with no particular interval needed. Getting them done together means just one trip to your GP and the best chance of getting protection as quickly as possible.

Q: How long does it take for the MMR jab to work? I would like to travel abroad with my daughter this summer and wondered if I should wait any length of time first?

The viruses in the MMR vaccine start to give protection from about 5 days onwards, and certainly by 10 days for the measles and rubella viruses. The mumps component can take as long as three weeks to give protection. Presumably your daughter will be old enough to have her first MMR before you travel and three weeks should be long enough.

Q: I am still worried about the autism/MMR link. Can you ease my mind – is there a study/research I can read?

You really do not need to be worried about autism and MMR immunisation. There never was a study that actually showed that having the MMR increased the risk of autism – even if that’s how the story got reported. There have been numerous studies done across the world and they all came to the same conclusion – that they could not identify that MMR was a risk factor for autism. Whenever independent researchers fail to confirm an earlier finding you really have to be very suspicious that the first results might be wrong. You can find the links to quite a few of the research articles on nhs.uk/conditions/measles. Go to the research timeline on the right hand side.

Q What’s your opinion on the views that autism and the MMR jab are connected? I’m anxious to go ahead after lots of stories I’ve read.

All of the latest views are that autism and the MMR jab are not connected in any way! Do go ahead with MMR and you don’t need to be anxious. Getting the MMR for your son or daughter is actually the best thing you can do to protect them.

Q: Are there any side-effects with the MMR jab? My daughter is due to have her first jab next week but she’s had quite a heavy cough and cold which isn’t shifting, and I’m concerned that the jab might make her feel worse in some way.

As long as your daughter isn’t acutely unwell she can go ahead and have her MMR next week. By then she should have got over her cold and cough, and as long as she hasn’t got a temperature then go ahead. Quite a few children get grizzly about five to seven days after the vaccination, and some get a temperature and a mild rash. Those really are the most likely side-effects but you can find all of the information at nhs.uk/conditions/measles.

Q: Why are measles, mumps and rubella jabs grouped together and not offered as single ones? It seems like an awful lot in one go.

The three viruses do not work at exactly the same time so there’s no problem about babies making immune responses to each of them – babies’ immune systems have a huge capacity to respond to immune challenges. It’s a great scare story that their immune systems might be overloaded, but it’s just plain wrong. The idea that single vaccines might somehow be better came with not a shred of evidence for the benefits, and separating the vaccines leaves babies at unnecessary risk of catching the diseases.

Q: Do you think there is a link between MMR and encephalitis. My brother got his MMR and within 12 hours he had encephalitis and as a result ended up with grand mal epilepsy. Do you think this is connected?

Given that your brother had encephalitis within 12 hours of MMR means that it’s really much too quick to be caused by the viruses in the MMR vaccine. They take much longer to replicate and cause symptoms so I don’t think his epilepsy is likely to be connected with the vaccination.

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For more information about the MMR vaccine log onto nhs.uk/conditions/mmr

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