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MMR Vaccine Controversy

MMR Vaccine Controversy

April 4, 2014 - By Dr Antony Zardis

Dr Antony Zardis discusses immunisation a topic which has caused quite the stir over the years.

Over the years, the concept of immunisation has caused quite the stir on numerous occasions.

Understandably, mums and dads can be a little apprehensive about the subject. By the time you have finished reading Roald Dahl's "George's Marvellous Medicine" to your little one, you can find yourself wondering what on earth is in a vaccine and whether it will do them any harm. It is perfectly natural to feel this way, it is after all human nature to fear and to question the unknown. However, the truth is, immunisation plays an integral role in keeping our children healthy, by providing protection against common infections that can have devastating and fatal consequences.

In the UK alone, it is estimated that three million children and teenagers between the ages of 18 months and 18 years, may have missed one of their MMR vaccinations. This would mean that at least one in four children are either immunised or partially immunised against Measles, Mumps and Rubella. As a result, the number of cases of measles and mumps has been rising since 2005.


This was heavily attributed to the MMR vaccine controversy that occurred in 1998, where a research paper was published in a medical journal called The Lancet, which claimed that the vaccine somehow caused Autism and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The paper was later revealed to be falsified. Multiple large studies have since been carried out which have proven no link between the vaccine, autism and IBS. The fraudulent journal and the controversy it created is to this day described by health professionals as "the most damaging medical hoax of the last century".

When is the MMR Vaccine given?

Usually given Age 12-13 months as part of the national immunisation programme.

Second dose given as a pre school booster Age 3 years and 4 months to 5 years.

MMR vaccine can be given at ANY age, therefore if any dose of MMR is  missed or delayed for any reason, it can still be given at a later stage.

Are there any side effects?

Most children are perfectly well after having the MMR vaccine. Serious problems are extremely rare.

The following rare side effects can occur, none of which are infectious or serious:

Mild Fever & Faint rash 7 - 10 days later

This should only last 2 - 3 days and is of no concern

Flu like symptoms 1 - 3 weeks later

Sore throat, joint pains and slight fever which soon subside and are again of no consequence.

Swollen Face 3 weeks later

Like a mild form of mumps. The swelling will subside gradually.

These reactions can be alleviated using paracetamol or ibuprofen if necessary.

Who should NOT receive the vaccine?

Pregnant woman / within one month before pregnancy

Patients on chemotherapy / with suppressed immune systems

Patients allergic to Neomycin or Gelatin ( found in the vaccine )

It is safe to have if you have an allergy to eggs.

What is Measles?

It is a highly infectious illness caused by the measles virus. Of all the childhood infections, this is the one most likely to cause encephalitis  (inflammation of the brain), which can result in brain damage. Other complications include fits, ear infections and pneumonia on a devastating scale. Each year, measles claims the lives of a number of children in the developing world, while leaving others crippled from the disease. Unfortunately it is back on the increase in certain parts of the UK and this is a direct consequence of not receiving the immunisation.

What is Mumps?

An infection, which typically causes inflammation and swelling of the glands around the face and neck. The illness can be complicated by orchitis (inflammation of the testes), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and deafness.

What is Rubella?

A mild illness which causes a sore throat, rash and swollen glands, however, if contracted while pregnant, it is likely to cause very serious damage to your unborn child with regards to their heart, brain, hearing and sight.

In Conclusion:

The combined MMR vaccine has been available since 1971 and has established itself well over the last four decades with absolutely no proven links to the development of any syndrome or disease such as IBS and autism. The vaccine is the only way to protect your child against the above diseases.

It's important we learn lessons from this hoax and remember to read a piece of medical journalism with care. Sometimes information may be fabricated or exaggerated to create sensational headlines.

If you are still in doubt about the MMR vaccine and whether it is appropriate for your child, be sure to visit your family GP with any questions.


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