The MMR vaccine and your child

Posted on 30 Jun, 2022.

What is the MMR vaccine and how serious can measles, mumps and rubella be for our children? Dr Hélène Brown (Medical Director at NHS London and mum of two) shares with us some incredibly insightful information about the vaccine and answers some frequently asked questions that you or other parents may have.

We hope you find it useful. x

What is the MMR vaccine?

The vaccine protecting against measles, mumps and rubella has been around since 1988, almost 35 years.  It is part of the routine childhood immunisations that are given to your child to protect them from a range of diseases.  The MMR vaccine is usually given when your child is a year old, with a booster given when they are three years and four months old.

We know that lots of children might have missed their vaccine appointments over the past couple of years owing to lockdown.  We also know that sometimes life just gets in the way! The good news is that it’s never too late to get both doses of the MMR jabs to give you child lifelong protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

You might have heard stories linking the vaccine to autism. I still hear from my own patients that it is something they have heard and that they have questions about.   There’s no evidence of any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. There are many studies that have investigated this.  The vaccine is safe, has been used for many years and gives great protection against some potentially serious diseases.

NHS infographic about the MMR vaccine with stuffed toys of germs in a child's toy box

I don’t know if my child has had their jabs – how can I check?

You can check your child’s personal child health record, you might know it as the “red book”. Most people are given it when their baby is born. If you don’t know where yours is don’t worry, make contact with your GP team and ask to know which vaccinations your child has received in the practice.

My child has missed their jabs – is it too late?

It’s never too late to catch up on these important vaccinations – you can still ask your GP surgery for the MMR vaccine if your child has missed either of these two doses.

Why do we vaccinate?

After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention.  Vaccines protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases.  They undergo rigorous safety testing before being introduced and they’re also constantly monitored for side effects after being introduced.  All medicines and vaccines in use in the UK have been approved by the UK’s independent regulator.

Thanks to vaccines, some diseases that used to kill or disable millions of people are seen very rarely.  .  However, if people stop having vaccines, it’s possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again.

NHS infographic about MMR immunisations with a mother and baby in the corner

Do I have to vaccinate my child?  How serious are measles, mumps and rubella?

As many people in this country have been vaccinated with the MMR it can be easy to forget what it was like to have these illnesses or to see children with them. They are all highly infectious and can spread easily between unvaccinated people.

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.  Measles can lead to serious problems if it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain.  If you catch measles when you are pregnant, it can harm your baby.

Mumps is most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears.  It usually passes without causing serious damage to a person’s health. Serious complications are rare, but mumps can lead to viral meningitis if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain.

Other complications include swelling of the testicles or ovaries (if the affected person has gone through puberty).

Rubella (german measles) is a rare illness that causes a spotty rash. It usually gets better in about a week, but it can be serious if you get it when you’re pregnant

The good news:

Your children and any pregnant people can be protected from these illnesses and their complications safely and easily by having the MMR vaccination.

The health care professionals giving the vaccinations are expert at doing this. They know how to make your child as comfortable as possible and will help you in the consultation.

If you have any questions at all about it please talk to a trusted healthcare professional like a health visitor, school nurse, GP nurse or GP.

For more information on the MMR vaccine please visit nhs.uk/MMR

By Dr Hélène Brown, GP, Medical Director at NHS London and mum of two

Disclaimer: The NHS have paid a fee towards this post. This fee will go towards helping more parents find classes and support near them. 

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