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Published on April 22, 2019

Why Is the Measles Vaccine So Important?

measles vaccine

The MMRV vaccine stands for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). These are 4 viral diseases than can have serious consequences and cause long-term health issues. These diseases are spread from person to person. That is why it is recommended that all children receive vaccination. The MMRV vaccine is given to children between 12 months and 12 years of age. It comes in 2 doses. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that children are given the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

We often hear about these childhood diseases, but what are they and what dangers do they pose to children?

  • Measles is a very contagious disease caused by the rubeola virus. Measles begins with flu-like symptoms. The patient then develops a rash that spreads from head to toe. Symptoms begin one to two weeks after exposure to the virus and last about a week. Measles can lead to serious complications or death. The complications can include pneumonia, swelling of the brain, seizures or meningitis. Measles doesn’t require personal contact. You can contract measles by entering a room previously occupied up to 2 hours earlier by someone who was infected.
  • Mumps is a viral illness that begins with flu-like symptoms then typically causes swelling of the salivary glands. Some patients won’t have the swelling, but will still feel ill. Symptoms last for about 10 days. The virus can spread 7 days before and 9 days after the symptoms start. It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to show symptoms after you have been exposed to the virus. Complications can include meningitis, infection and swelling of the testes or ovaries (which can cause infertility) and pancreatitis.
  • Rubella, or German measles, is a mild illness unless you are a pregnant woman. The virus can cause serious and fatal birth defects in the fetus. The virus begins as a fever or rash and typically is gone in 2 to 3 days. It is spread from person to person by making contact with fluid from an infected person. This can happen by sharing food or drink or touching something that has droplets on it.
  • Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus. It causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters over the body. Chickenpox is spread from a sneeze, cough or sharing food or drinks. The first symptoms appear about 2 weeks after exposure to the virus and the symptoms typically last about 10 days. Although there is a low risk of complications from chickenpox, there is a significant risk of bacterial skin infections and pneumonia. It used to be very common for a child to catch chickenpox, but it’s rare to see a case now.

Thanks to vaccination, these diseases are very limited. Yet outbreaks are becoming more common, especially measles, due to child vaccination refusals by parents. There have been sporadic outbreaks in groups who have not been vaccinated, which has caused the diseases to re-emerge in larger numbers than we are used to seeing.

Who shouldn’t get vaccinated?

Some previous health concerns may cause you to delay getting a vaccine or even prevent it. It is best to tell the person who is giving the vaccine any about any health problems. These include:

  • Having received a vaccine in the past 4 weeks.
  • Any severe or life-threatening allergies.
  • A weakened immune system from disease or treatment of a disease.
  • A family history of immune system problems.
  • A tuberculosis diagnosis.
  • A blood transfusion within the last 3 months.
  • Pregnancy.
  • A personal or family history of seizures.

If none of these health concerns are present, it is highly recommended that every child be vaccinated. With any vaccination, there is a chance of a physical reaction. Most children who get the vaccine have no reaction at all. These reactions are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are rare, usually 1 in a million doses. Getting the MMRV vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox.

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About the Author

Christie Leath, NP-CChristie Leath, NP-C, is a family nurse practitioner at InstaCare