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Should I get the MMR vaccines?

Should I get the MMR vaccines?
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MMR protects against three viral illnesses that can have devastating effects

MMR is a combination of three vaccines that protects against measles, mumps and rubella, three infectious viruses that cause unpleasant – and occasionally dangerous – illnesses.

What are the risks of measles?

Although measles was declared eliminated from Canada in 1998 because of vaccination programs, it is common in other parts of the world, and it is incredibly infectious. You can get infected by measles if you have not been vaccinated against it, or if you have not had measles. It is very difficult to avoid being infected with measles, as it is not always obvious who is carrying it. People are contagious with measles before they realize they have it.

If you come back from travelling with a measles infection it is easy to pass it on to vulnerable people, such as babies and the immune-compromised, who cannot be vaccinated. You can spread measles even before you know you are sick. You can catch measles by walking into a room one hour after someone infected has sneezed.

You will need time off work or school if you are infected with measles, and it takes two to three weeks to recover. Some people get complications of measles, which include:

  • blindness
  • ear infections
  • encephalitis (swelling of the brain, which can be fatal and may result in brain damage)
  • miscarriage (if a pregnant woman contracts measles)

The Government of Canada has more detailed information about measles.

What are the risks of mumps?

Mumps causes a painful swelling of the face. Other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • joint pain

In young adults mumps can cause swelling of the testicle or ovaries. In very few cases mumps can lead to meningitis or encephalitis. Mumps isn’t usually serious, but it is very infectious. It spreads via infected respiratory droplets. You should stay off school or work for at least five days after the symptoms develop to avoid infecting others.

The Government of Canada has more detailed information about mumps.

What are the risks of rubella?

Rubella infection causes a spotted rash. Other symptoms of rubella are:

aches in fingers, wrists and knees

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • sore eyes

Infection with rubella during early pregnancy can cause miscarriage and may permanently damage the baby’s health.

Rubella passes after a week, but you need to stay away from work or school for five days after the rash appears. It is infectious for a week before the symptoms start so it is easily passed on to others.

The Government of Canada has more detailed information about rubella.

How do I know if I’ve already had the MMR vaccine?

You may be protected from measles, mumps and rubella already under the Canadian vaccine schedule. If you’re not sure, you can ask your normal healthcare provider to look at your records. The vaccine is given in two doses and some people have not had the second dose, so they are not completely protected.

Is MMR safe?

In the late 1990s research was published suggesting a link between vaccination with MMR in childhood and autism. This research has since been discredited. All the vaccines we use have been extensively tested and meet international standards. Vaccination can prevent serious illness and death; and it also protects those who, for health reasons, cannot be vaccinated. If you are unsure about having the MMR vaccine, talk to one of our health advisers.

How do I make an appointment for vaccinations in Vancouver?

Canadian Travel Clinics can offer same-day vaccinations at our travel clinics in Vancouver. Make an appointment online right now.