Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

The question of whether to vaccinate children with the MMR vaccine has become somewhat of a hot topic recently, even making its way into politics. Both sides claim that there could be serious consequences if their view is not followed. The majority view, in favor of giving the vaccine, claim that the MMR vaccine is completely safe, except for a small percentage of minor side affects in some people, and can successfully prevent the serious symptoms that measles, mumps, and rubella can cause. In other words, the benefits far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

The alternative position, against giving the vaccine, generally believe that the vaccination is less successful than popularly touted and claim a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism. According to them, the recent epidemic of autistic children is directly correlated to the usage of the MMR vaccine among others.

Measles, mumps, and rubella are serious diseases. Before vaccines they were very common, especially among children.

  • Measles virus causes rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever.
  • It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring), brain damage, and death.
  • Mumps virus causes fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and swollen glands.
  • It can lead to deafness, meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord covering), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and rarely sterility.
  • Rubella virus causes rash, arthritis (mostly in women), and mild fever.
  • If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.

These diseases spread from person to person through the air. You can easily catch them by being around someone who is already infected.


How do vaccines prevent disease?

A vaccine contains a killed or weakened part of a germ that is responsible for infection. Because the germ has been killed or weakened before it is used to make the vaccine, it can not make the person sick. When a person receives a vaccine, the body reacts by making protective substances called “antibodies”. The antibodies are the body’s defenders because they help to kill off the germs that enter the body. In other words, vaccines expose people safely to germs, so that they can become protected from a disease but not come down with the disease.


This is a heated controversy with purportedly large health risks on either side. A related debate on this topic is whether, assuming the majority viewpoint is adopted, vaccines should be required for all children as a public health measure. This involves not just what is believed to be the right course of action, but whether that action should be forced on others possibly against their will. Should parents have the right to withhold vaccinations from their child, or should the state require them to be vaccinated?

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