The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against three viral infections – measles, mumps and rubella – in one vaccine.
Prior to immunisation, these were highly feared viruses, with complications common, occurring in 1 in every 10 people.
The MMR vaccine is part of the childhood immunisation schedule. For best protection, two doses are needed, in New Zealand we give them at 12 and 15 months of age. For adults unsure if they have ever had MMR before, two doses are free and recommended before the age of 50 years.
The MMR vaccine is a live vaccine, which means that it is made using parts of the three viruses that have been attenuated (or weakened). This allows your natural immune system to fight the virus without the high risks associated with getting the viruses at full strength. It also means that for tamariki whose immune system is weakened, or supressed, they may not be able to have this vaccine. This makes community immunity that much more important.
Why should I get the MMR vaccine?
Just one dose of the MMR vaccine provides a 95% chance of being protected against measles. A second dose is used to ensure the remaining 5% of people get immunity.
One is good, two is better
Measles can be very serious, with 1 in 10 people who get it needing to go to the hospital for treatment. Pneumonia is a complication that comes from the infection and is also the most common cause of death from measles. Other complications include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), ear infections (can cause hearing loss) and diarrhoea (can cause severe dehydration).
Mumps symptoms range from mild, headache, fever or swollen neck glands to more serious complications like meningitis, deafness and in adolescence swollen testicles or ovaries, which can lead to infertility.
Rubella is a serious concern especially for pregnant women, who if they catch it during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, can affect the development of the baby and cause severe complications such as brain damage, heart abnormalities, and deafness and eye problems. For others, this infection is usually mild and lasts 7-10 days.
This is especially important for women thinking of getting pregnant, to get immunised before and prevent harm.
Talk to your doctor about the MMR vaccine today and to check if you are protected.