The MMR vaccine is the best preventive measure against measles, a highly infectious viral disease that is a leading cause of death among children globally. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, administered in childhood, provides immunity against measles as well as mumps and rubella (German measles).
You are considered to be protected for life against measles and the other two infectious viral diseases if you receive the MMR vaccine at the appropriate age in childhood.
“Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk,” says the World Health Organization.
Measles has seen an upsurge in Europe in recent months, with 41,000 cases reported from January to June 2018, almost double the number in all of 2017. This steep rise in cases has been attributed to low MMR vaccination rates in the countries affected. MMR vaccination rates in Europe began to fall after British researcher Andrew Wakefield published a paper in 1998 pointing to a link between the vaccine and autism. Wakefield’s theory has since been proved to be baseless.
In Singapore, where the MMR vaccine is compulsory in childhood, children receive their first dose of the vaccine by the age of 15 months and their second dose at 15-18 months. While your child is likely to develop immunity against measles even if the vaccine is given at a later date, delaying it is not recommended.
If a child who has not been vaccinated receives the vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus, he or she is likely to have milder symptoms.
Can adults get the MMR vaccine?
If you did not receive the MMR vaccine as a child, you can get it as an adult. Consult your doctor, who will advise you on the recommended doses.
Symptoms and complications of measles
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus that is spread through infected nasal and throat secretions. Measles symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Small white spots inside the cheeks
- Rash on the face, neck, hands, feet
Complications associated with measles include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, dehydration, ear infection, and pneumonia. In 2016, an estimated 90,000 people died from measles, an 84 per cent drop from over 550,000 deaths in 2000, reports WHO.