Can The MMR Vaccine Cause Autism In Kids? Here’s The Real Truth

Sarmistha Neogy
·5-min read

Measles is a deadly viral infection that attacks the respiratory system and can seriously affect an infant’s health, if they are not given measles vaccine at 9 months. In fact, it is so fatal that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it to be ‘one of the world’s most contagious’ when its percentage increased to 300 (globally), in the first three months of 2019. This, in comparison to the same period in 2018.

Singapore hasn’t exactly been immune to measles either.

In 2019, the number of measles cases in Singapore hit the highest since its outbreak in 1997. At the time, the islanders were urged to remain vigilant due to its position as an international travel hub. Thankfully, the situation was brought under control and MOH announced there was no outbreak.

Today, we are dealing with another type of virus. But that still hasn’t changed the fact that measles remains to be a concern for more parents. And with more questions about its vaccine connected to autism, it is all the more important to know about this deadly infection.

What Parents Must Know About Measles

measles vaccine at 9 months
measles vaccine at 9 months

Image courtesy: iStock

Common Symptoms Of Measles

The symptoms of measles will first appear within 10 to 12 days of exposure to the virus. Your child may have a cough, runny nose, sore throat, and/or fever. Tiny white spots with a red background (Koplik’s spots) inside the mouth may also appear 2 to 4 days after the initial symptoms.

But a skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to 7 days and mostly develops on the head and will slowly spread to other parts of the body.

Risk Of Infection From Measles

Measles is also a very contagious infection. It can spread easily from one person to another. For instance, if you were exposed to the measles virus, you have a 90 percent chance of getting infected. And you can spread the virus to anywhere between 9 and 18 susceptible individuals.

Infants are at a much higher risk of developing complications from measles due to their weak immune systems. This is why we need to be extra cautious and take all the necessary precautions. The only treatment for infants is a measles vaccine at 9 months.

Incidentally, a vast majority of cases of infection are in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people.

Vaccination For Measles

Essentially, the way a vaccine works is an injection of the weakened form of the virus, which stimulates the body to form memory cells that would result in a faster response if subjected to the same antigen. The MMR vaccine is not different, it being a constituent of weakened form of the measles, mumps and rubella viruses.

Why Your Baby Needs A Measles Vaccine At 9 Months

measles vaccine at 9 months
measles vaccine at 9 months

Image courtesy: iStock

Babies generally receive protection from measles through passive immunity. As a mum, you are providing it through the placenta and also during breastfeeding. But, this immunity may not stay for long. When your child turns 2.5 years or when you stop breastfeeding, he/she may also lose this passive immunity.

So ensure that your baby get his/her measles vaccine at 9 months and above, or as recommended by the doctor. It is important because children under 5 years are more likely to have complications and/or suffer from pneumonia, encephalitis, and ear infections that can result in hearing loss.

In Singapore, measles vaccination is compulsory by law. The National Adult Immunisation Schedule also advises people who have not been vaccinated to do so at the earliest. The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) also recommends all children get two doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose between 12 and 15 months of age (earlier if advised by the doctor). They need to get their second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

But, in a high-risk setting, infants need to get their first dose of vaccine at 9 months. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recommends a measles vaccine at 9 months of age.

How To Prevent The Spread Of Measles

washing hands
washing hands

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Yes, the measles vaccine at 9 months is the only way to prevent your baby from contracting this contagious disease. But, not everyone can get vaccinated. Therefore, here are some safety tips which you need to follow to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you’re susceptible to infection:

  • Wash your hands before eating and after using the washroom

  • Avoid coming in contact with people whose immunity can be weak like infants, old people, and pregnant women

If your child contracts measles

  • Don’t send your little one to any public place until they aren’t contagious

  • Cover their nose and mouth at the time of coughing or sneezing. Dispose of all used tissues promptly.

  • Wash their hands frequently

  • Disinfect any surfaces or objects that they touch

  • Give them plenty of fluids so they are not dehydrated

  • Take care of their nutrition

Can Measles Vaccine Cause Autism: The Controversy

Over the past few years there have been several discussions and debates about MMR vaccines causing autism. Stress not, there has been absolutely zero medical evidence that shows any correlation with the MMR vaccine and the increase in autism.

The confusion started after a study was published in 1998, which suggested that the MMR vaccine might cause autism.

However, several pieces of research were done and it was found the study was false. The doctor who wrote the study also lost his medical license. The medical journal that published it retracted the paper. All of this, despite knowing the importance of vaccination and how safe it is.

No matter the rumours, or false information, remember that vaccination isn’t just important to protect you and your family. It’s also important to protecting those around us. In a country like Singapore, doctors are usually well-equipped to deal with these side-effects and a full recovery is usually expected.

The more the number of vaccinated young ones,, it’s less likely to circulate within the population. So, stay safe and don’t delay the measles vaccine at 9 months or ad advised by your doctor.

News source: Healthline, Kidshealth


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