Toddlers Need Their MMR Vaccination

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The toddler is sweating with a fever and crying. She has not eaten in a couple of days and she has swollen glands on either side of her face. Her parents look on anxiously and try to get her fever down. Unfortunately the disease progresses and the little girl becomes deaf.

In the 1950’s it was all too common for toddlers to contract the mumps and suffer. Of course this was not the only disease that toddlers could contract that could cause dire consequences. There were other diseases lurking out there such as measles and rubella.

Measles commonly cause a rash, cough, runny nose, and fever. It can progress to where a toddler develops ear infections, pneumonia and even seizures. Rubella tends to be less serious though it can still cause a rash and mild fever. All of these diseases are spread through the air and can be hard to avoid once an outbreak occurs.

Fortunately all of the diseases have become quite rare due to vaccination efforts started in the 1970’s with the development of the MMR vaccine. It is now common for toddlers to receive their first dose of the MMR vaccination when they are 12 to 15 months old. A second dose is typically administered at the age of four years old.

There are some common side effects that toddlers can experience after getting their first dose of the MMR vaccine. Some toddlers experience a fever or mild rash. Even rarer, a toddler may have some swelling around her checks or neck. These side effects are fairly short-lived and are far milder symptoms than those that occur with measles, mumps, or rubella.

There has been a misconception about the safety of the MMR vaccine and its’ possible link to children with autism. Medical studies that have looked at millions of children who have received the MMR vaccine concluded that there is no link between receiving the MMR vaccine and developing autism.

The MMR vaccine is becoming even more effective. The MMRV vaccine is relatively new and has added protection against another formerly common childhood disease, chickenpox.

In addition to making toddlers immune to these diseases, vaccination can protect other children too through community immunity. Community immunity occurs when a high percentage of children are vaccinated against a particular disease making it unlikely for the disease to get passed on to unvaccinated children if the disease should occur.

Community immunity breaks down when few children are vaccinated and the possibility of a disease spreading increases. This is seen occasionally in the United States when enough parents refuse to immunize their children and an outbreak occurs.

The MMR vaccine and other vaccines like it are responsible for the prevention of hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations each year. Children benefit immeasurably by avoiding illness and suffering long-term physical side effects. Parents are encouraged to get their toddlers vaccinated with the MMR vaccine to reap its’ full benefits.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on September 7, 2014.

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