What is the MMR vaccine?
The MMR vaccine is a combined immunisation designed to prevent the onset of three diseases, – measles, mumps and rubella. These are contagious diseases found around the world which can cause serious complications, so it’s important that unvaccinated travellers are fully protected.
The vaccine is compulsory for those living in Singapore and is part of the Health Promotion Board’s National Childhood Immunisation Schedule. 2 doses of the vaccine are administered to children at 12 months and then between 15-18 months as part of the schedule.
As part of the National Adult Immunisation Schedule initiated by MOH, adults without evidence of immunity and/or prior disease in Singapore are encouraged to get vaccinated.
For non-immune adults and travellers who are travelling to high risk areas to be fully protected, MOH advises that 2 doses of the vaccine are required, administered at least 28 days apart. The MMR jab is given as injections into a muscle in the upper arm or thigh.
After receiving this series of jabs, protection against the three diseases is lifelong.
What is measles?
Measles is one of the most contagious viral diseases, spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes.
Initial symptoms include fever, a runny nose, sneezing, a cough, red and sore eyes and small greyish-white spots on the cheeks inside the mouth. A blotchy, red-brown rash appears a few days later, usually starting on the head or neck before spreading to the rest of the body.
Some people may experience complications including diarrhoea, ear infections, and pneumonia.
What are mumps?
Mumps is a contagious viral infection caused by Rubulavirus, which is present throughout the world. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, nausea, a dry mouth, loss of appetite, and swelling of the parotid glands on the sides of the face.
Common complications associated with mumps include swollen testicles or ovaries, pancreatitis and temporary hearing loss. In rarer cases it can lead to permanent deafness, viral meningitis (brain swelling), and infertility.
Mumps is spread by airborne particles which are released from the respiratory tract by sneezes and spread by touching objects and sharing utensils.
What is rubella?
Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral disease that causes a spotty rash. It is spread from person to person usually by sneezing. Symptoms include fever, nasal congestion, sore throat, and a rash that usually lasts 3 days.
Rubella is very serious if a woman catches it in the early stages of her pregnancy and it can result in miscarriage. That’s why it is essential that women receive the MMR vaccination before becoming pregnant.
Do I need a MMR vaccine?
Measles, mumps, and rubella are highly infectious conditions that can have serious or potentially fatal outcomes. Outbreaks are uncommon in Singapore largely because of the Infectious Disease Act, which requires every child in Singapore to be vaccinated against measles. If you are have not yet been vaccinated, you should approach your GP or travel health professional for advice and vaccination.
At least three months before trying to become pregnant, a woman should have a blood test to see if the rubella antibodies are present; if not, she should be immunised or re-immunised.
If you are pregnant or looking to get pregnant in a short while, it is not advisable to get the MMR vaccine. If you feel that you absolutely need to because you are travelling to a high risk region, it may be best for you to speak to your health provider so that he or she may give you a recommendation.
Travellers are exposed to the viruses that cause measles, mumps and rubella almost everywhere in the world, with the greatest risk in developing countries. If you have not yet been vaccinated and are travelling to developing countries or regions with a risk of transmission of measles, mumps or rubella, you are advised to get vaccinated at least a month before you travel.
What are the side effects of the MMR vaccine?
Side effects are usually mild and far more mild than the potential effects of measles, mumps and rubella.
You may develop a mild, non-infectious form of measles or mumps, lasting around 2 days. In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots may appear a few weeks after the injection, and there’s a small (1 in 1,000) chance of experiencing seizures 6 to 11 days after receiving the vaccination.
See your GP if you have this kind of rash, or if you are concerned about your child’s symptoms after receiving the MMR vaccine.
If a household member is pregnant and there is any question of her not being immune, your doctor will recommend delaying immunisation of your children to prevent exposing the mother-to-be to the live, though weakened, virus in the vaccine.