The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is one of the old standards. It is given sub-cutaneously (meaning just under the skin, but not into the muscle). As this is a live virus vaccine, reactions are quite common, and it is possible for the vaccine to actually cause the disease against which it is supposed to protect. While the combined form is standard, it is worth considering getting the three vaccines in separate shots—at least for the first dose of each—so that if a reaction occurs, you can tell what the reaction is to.
With many vaccines, the adverse reactions are difficult to define. Meaning that while one person may be certain that the symptoms are effects of the vaccine, it is difficult to prove that the two are linked, and (in these days of multi-vaxing) it is even more difficult to determine which vaccine caused the reaction. HOWEVER, studies have PROVEN that the MMR vaccine—the rubella portion in particular—can cause arthritis or arthritic symptoms which may be temporary or permanent. This happens in about 25% of cases, and it causes by chemical confusion (the molecular structure of some components of the vaccine are extremely similar to some components of natural joint fluids, and the immune system becomes confused and while it is attacking the toxins from the vaccine, it also attacks the joints…) There are innumerable reactions attributed too vaccinations, but this is one that is proven. I repeat, this reaction is NOT speculative, it is proven. Furthermore, it is common.
MMR is a famous ‘bad guy’ vaccine, because it is commonly said to cause autism. (The other infamous link is DTP and SIDS.) I have two things to say about that 1—causality cannot be proven, but neither can innocence. 2—you won’t find something if you refuse to look for it. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Personally, I am fascinated by Stephanie Cave’s chart showing the parallels between the symptoms of autism and the symptoms of mercury poisoning. I strongly suspect they are the same thing, and that thimerosal-free vaccines will help enormously in reducing the rates of autism. Additionally, primary brain development slows down by age 2, so waiting until that time to give this vaccine may help reduce the risk of adverse reactions, including autism.
Schools require 2 doses of the MMR, and the MTC recommends the same. Doses should be administered at least 4 weeks apart. The recommended schedule is 12-15m, 4-6y, and then a rubella booster (although the full MMR is usually given) especially for girls around 12y or the onset of puberty. Note that doses given to a child under 12months don’t count for anything.
The MMR vaccine contains gelatin (allergen), sorbitol (allergen), neomycin (an antibiotic), and in the measles and mumps portion, it contains egg (allergen). The original serum for the rubella vaccine was made in 1964 with aborted fetal tissue (the mother got Rubella). While I appreciate that that is an effective way to acquire the virus, there are moral considerations about the fact that it was aborted human fetal tissue that was used.
So, what are these diseases? Well, they are not really as scary as we are led to believe.
Measles is no fun. On the other hand, it’s not usually that big a deal either. The patient gets spots and feels yukky for a while, but that’s about it. Once it’s over, they have natural lifelong immunity. Primary treatments include doses of vitamin A (suggesting that this would also be helpful with the live vaccine). It used to be most common in children 4-5years old, but since the introduction of the vaccination it is most common between ages 10-14y, and is seen as young as 6m and as old as 20y. About 1 in 1000 cases is fatal. Most cases of measles in the USA are in people who were vaccinated. Recent outbreaks have been in vaccinated populations, and weird strains of measles are appearing, suggesting that the virus is mutating and the vaccine is clearly losing efficacy. In decades past, women had childhood measles, and then their natural antibodies protected their (breastfed) infants during the first 12-15months of life. However, now that most mothers have been vaccinated, they do not have those natural antibodies, and so cannot protect their children. The result is that infants are catching measles during their first year of life, when they are too young for the vaccination, and too small to cope with the actual disease. In other words, mass vaccination of one generation has now put the next generation at increased risk.
Mumps is an all around mild disease, and natural immunity results. For years people have feared it because of the rumors that it can cause sterility. While it is true that about 25% of cases do include infection in the reproductive organs, it is rare for that infection to cause sterility. Even if sterility of the organ does result, it is VERY rare for the infection to attack both testes or both ovaries, so while fertility might be reduced by half, it is almost never lost entirely. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine is questionable. Some doctors theorize that it is 75-95% effective, and lasts for around 30 years, but not everyone agrees. The one thing that is certain is that there has been a 600% reduction in mumps infection rates since introduction of the vaccination.
Rubella is also called ‘German Measles’ because it causes spots like measles does, however it should not be confused with regular measles. Rubella does carry some danger, but only to unborn babies. In fact, the vaccine is recommended for children to protect the pregnant women around them rather than to protect the children themselves, for whom the disease would be no big deal. The danger to a fetus is so extreme that a pregnant (or potentially pregnant) woman should NEVER get a rubella vaccination, and no one living in a household with her should get the vaccination. A woman receiving the rubella vaccination should be careful to not become pregnant for at least 3 months (the advice used to be 6 months, and before that they said 12months…actually no one knows how long the live virus remains in the body, but 3 months seems to be the shortest anyone is willing to go). The danger is this: if a woman contracts rubella in the first half of a pregnancy it can cause deafness, bone defects, heart defects, glaucoma, mental retardation, cataracts, poor growth or death to the baby. Miscarriages and stillbirths are common results of rubella.
I have personal experience with a reaction to the rubella vaccine. I was fully vaccinated for rubella as a child, but at age 25, my titers showed that I did not have the antibodies. Whether they had worn down, or whether I had never developed them, we don’t know. Since I was pregnant, the doctor recommended getting the vaccine immediately after delivery. I chose to do so.
Within a couple of days I developed SEVERE itching all over my body. I am one who can usually resist scratching, but this was so severe that I developed rashes on my arms, legs, belly, and breasts, and even broke the skin in a few places due to scratching. I called the doctor’s office to ask what they recommended I do, and the nurse told me that they usually recommended a benadryll cream. Usually? Meaning that is kind of reaction was common?! Yup. So I got a benadryll cream, and applied it…I used almost the entire tube in 4 days, and that was trying to use the minimum possible because the label warned against using it on large areas! So, the itching subsided after about a week, although the rashes took at least another week to clear up. Then came the joint pain. My wrists began to be sore. At first I thought it was from holding my baby—that I was inadvertently putting my wrists at bad angles and thereby hurting myself. So I paid careful attention to not bend my wrists, but to keep them straight while holding my baby. The pain continued. I wondered about carpal tunnel, but the symptoms didn’t quite match. The soreness came and went a little, but I always noticed it at night, especially when I lifted my baby to feed him. He was a small baby, but just picking him up caused such excruciating pain in my wrists and hands that I had to grit my teeth to do it. This lasted for several months.
Finally, all the symptoms faded away. I now sincerely regret having chosen to get that vaccination though. I had never had a reaction to any vaccine before then, and certainly did not expect to have one this time. But I’m now a little wiser for the wear I suppose, and I cannot think of any circumstance where I would recommend that a mother get this as I did.
Well, following my rubella experience, I don’t care what future titers may say about my immunity or lack thereof—I will not get that vaccination ever again. Mumps seems hardly worth protecting against, and measles, well, who is to say that the vaccine will hold up to the new mutations of the virus?! This vaccine has been around a long time, and until my recent experience and research I would never have thought to question it…but I must say, it’s definitely worth questioning.