Most people receive measles vaccine as part of a combination vaccine known as M-M-R II® which also protects against two other viruses – mumps and rubella. Another option is a vaccine called Proquad® which provides protection against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox) in one shot. A vaccine protective against measles only is also available and called Attenuvax®. All three of these vaccines are produced by Merck and Co, Whitehouse Station, NJ.
Measles vaccines are live, attenuated (weakened) virus vaccines. This means that after injection, the virus grows, and causes a harmless infection in the person immunized. The body’s immune system fights the infection caused by the weakened virus, which results in the person becoming immune to measles infection.
Fever is the most common side effect, occurring in 5%-15% of vaccine recipients. About 5% of people develop a mild rash. When they occur, fever and rash appear 7-10 days after vaccination. About 25% of adult women receiving MMR vaccine develop temporary joint pain, although this symptom is related to the rubella component of the combined vaccine. Joint pain only occurs in women who are susceptible to rubella at the time of vaccination.
More severe reactions, including allergic reactions, are rare. About one person per million develops inflammation of the brain due to the measles component of the MMR vaccine.
Current scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. The question about a possible link between MMR vaccine and autism has been extensively reviewed by independent groups of experts in the U.S. including the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. These reviews have concluded that the available epidemiologic evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism.
The MMR-autism theory had its origins in research by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in England. Those colleagues have retracted their article about the theory. Studies that suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between MMR vaccine and autism have received a lot of attention by the media. However, these studies have significant weaknesses and are far outweighed by many population studies that have consistently failed to show a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. For a summary of the issues surrounding this topic, please read "Vaccines and Autism," by Paul A. Offit, MD, Director, Vaccine Education Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. This article can be accessed online at: www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2065.htm. For more information and links to related journal articles, visit IAC's "Autism" page at: www.immunize.org/safety/autism.htm