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Vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine)

Children are offered the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella at the age of 15 months and in 6th grade (approximately 11 years).

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Children at different ages. Illustrasjon: Colourbox

The vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella is known as the MMR vaccine, from the abbreviations of the diseases. The vaccine is a combination vaccine that contains live, weakened measles, mumps and rubella viruses.

After the first MMR dose, which is normally given at the age of 15 months, over 90 per cent of those vaccinated are protected for many years, possibly for life. A new dose is given at the age of 11 to ensure the protection of the remaining 10 per cent and to ensure long­‐term protection. It is not harmful to vaccinate a person who has already had one or more of the diseases. Since the MMR vaccine is a live weakened vaccine, it is important that the public health nurse is informed before vaccination if the child has an immunodeficiency disorder or takes medicines.

About the diseases

Measles is our most serious childhood disease. The disease is highly contagious. Among those who grew up before a vaccine became available, more than 99 per cent contracted measles. The disease begins with cold-like symptoms and a high fever, followed by a rash. Measles is often followed by complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and inflammation of the middle ear. Serious consequences such as inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), permanent brain damage and death occur. Worldwide, about 120,000 people die of measles each year, most of whom are children. Measles outbreaks with deaths also occur among unvaccinated people in our part of the world.

Mumps is a viral infection that causes fever and swelling in the salivary gland in front of the ear. The most common complication is mumps meningitis, which usually passes without permanent damage. A more serious complication is permanent deafness. If boys contract mumps after puberty, the virus can attack the testicles and lead to reduced fertility, but probably not sterility.

Rubella (also known as German measles) is a mild disease that causes fever and rash in both children and adults. If a pregnant woman contracts rubella, the disease can lead to serious injury to the unborn baby. The risk for deformities is over 80 per cent for disease within the first trimester of the pregnancy. The most common route of infection for pregnant women is contact with children who have the disease. In some outbreaks, unvaccinated men have been the source of infection. Therefore, it is important that all children are vaccinated.

Common side effects

Brief pain, redness and swelling at the injection site occur. One to two weeks after vaccination, some children will get slight symptoms of the diseases vaccinated against, but this occurs in fewer than 1 in 20. The most common symptoms are fever and rash. Infection with a vaccine virus is not contagious. The complications that occur after the diseases rarely or never occur after vaccination.

In 1997, a hypothesis alleged that MMR vaccine could be a cause of autism. A number of major studies have since been performed which all indicate strongly that MMR vaccine does not cause autism or any other form of brain damage.

The vaccine used is called Priorix.