The ongoing MMR vaccine drive aims at eliminating measles and controlling rubella. There is a lot of confusion and scare around the drive with unauthorized and misleading opinions about the vaccine. Here's a lists of facts that will dispel parents’ doubts about the vaccine.
1. MMR vaccine protects your child against 3 diseases – Measles, Mumps and Rubella.
2. To get full protection against Measles, Mumps and Rubella, a child needs to get 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.
3. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends that these 2 doses of the MMR vaccine be given to children at 9 months and 15 months of age (15 months and 4-6 years of age as per the old IAP schedule).
4. If your child is more than 6 years old and has been visiting a doctor in the private sector (who follows the IAP immunization schedule), it is more than likely that your child must have had the requisite 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.
5. The Universal Immunization Program (UIP) administered by the Government (through which vaccines are administered free-of-cost) follows an immunization schedule that is different from the IAP schedule. According to the Government’s UIP Schedule, only one dose of the Measles vaccine is given to children at 9 months of age.
6. So, if your child has been getting his vaccines through the Government’s UIP, it is likely that your child has not been vaccinated against Mumps or Rubella.
7. The ongoing MR (Measles, Rubella) vaccination drive by the Government targets these children (receiving immunization in the Government Sector) who have not been immunized against Rubella.
8. As there are practical difficulties in distinguishing children who have received their vaccines from the private sector doctors and those that have received their vaccines through the Government’s UIP, the Government recommends that all children (irrespective of their immunization status) receive the MR (Measles, Rubella Vaccine). This is because evidence in the medical literature does not point to any harm in a child receiving an extra vaccine dose (even if a child has received the full complement of the requisite vaccine doses previously).
9. On the same note, there is no advantage to receiving an extra dose of the vaccine. Contrary to misconceptions, an extra dose does not give extra protection!
10. Vaccination is purely voluntary anywhere in the world. Parental consent is a must for vaccinating any child.
11. So, if you are sure that your child has received the 2 requisite doses of the MMR Vaccine (through the private sector doctor), you are entitled to decline consent for the MR vaccine being administered at school.
12. Please consult your pediatrician if you have difficulty deciding about consent for the MR vaccination drive at the school.
13. At the end of the day, it is important to ensure that your child has received the requisite vaccine doses and is fully protected against Measles, Mumps and Rubella.
The author is a Fellow of the American Board of Pediatrics.