The MMR JAB The needle and the need to knows

MMR are three letters which might not be on your radar. They refer to an inoculation (or jab), in fact two, that you should have had when you were little.  You may or may not remember if you’ve had it, but that may be about all you know. Trust us; it’s worth finding out more.

MMR stands for measles, mumps and rubella.  Because these are three illnesses aren’t that common any more we don’t know a lot about them.  They’re not around so much because the vaccine is really effective.  However if you haven’t had your jab and you do catch one it’s no joke.   These are three rather nasty viruses that can have serious affects.


You should have been given the jab twice when you were little.  Once when you were between 12 and 15 months and then again between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.  Some of you may not have gotten these done when you were younger because there were concerns that the vaccination could lead to autism and quite a lot of mothers decided not to expose their babies to the risk.  The claims have since been totally disproved and withdrawn, but those who missed out are now exposed to another risk



Similarly due to the downturn in MMR inoculation mumps is also making a comeback. In particular it is making its presence felt at Universities up and down the land targeting students. In many ways it’s turning into the intellectual’s virus! It’s hugely contagious and easily passed on through saliva – so anything from sharing a cup or fork to a drunken snog during Fresher’s week can leave you down in the dumps with mumps (click here for symptoms and details).

Mumps has always been around. Back in the days before the MMR vaccine around 150,000 cases a year were reported and the figures are sound because it’s a ‘notifiable disease’ which means doctors have to report it to the authorities. After the vaccine it dropped dramatically to around 2,500 cases per year. However it’s been creeping up to around 7,000 cases, mostly related to outbreaks at Uni.

If you get mumps before puberty it’s only a minor inconvenience. The most conspicuous feature is that your glands in your throat swell up and you end up looking like a hamster that’s had one too many chicken nuggets.

After puberty, and if you’re a bloke, it isn’t only your glands that get affected – in 1 in 3 cases mumps attacks your boy bits and causes your testicles to swell up like Buster Gonad in Viz. Nobody here at DW has had an attack of the swollen scrot but, by all accounts, it’s not nice.

Mumps is also a dangerous condition for pregnant women and can result in miscarriage. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t every have the MMR jab if you’re a girl and planning or trying to get pregnant.


You can get the vaccine at any time in your life. At around 16 you’ll be offered a booster vaccine. If there’s an outbreak of measles and you think you’ve come into contact with the infection you can get a booster jab. If you’re unsure whether you’ve had the MMR vaccine there isn’t any danger in getting it more than once.

jab doctor


Measles isn’t just a nasty virus it’s a major global killer. Today it’s the biggest killer worldwide of children, especially in the third world. The World Health Organisation estimates that in the year 2,000 there were 45 million cases of measles worldwide and 800,000 deaths, particularly amongst malnourished populations. Since then there has been a major global push to inoculate children. It’s been very successful in reducing the rate of infection and mortality.

In developed countries such as the UK the incidence has, until recently, been much lower, although even as recently as the middle of last century up to 500 kids each year were still dying from it. But today measles is making a comeback. In May 2011 the rate shot up tenfold, linked to an outbreak in France and the fact that people had not been inoculated. This year too measles has been in the news due to unusual levels of the disease.

If you were one of those who didn’t get inoculated don’t worry as it can be treated quickly if it is diagnosed early, and it’s easy to spot as the measles rash is pretty conspicuous (for symptoms etc. click here). Best thing though if you know you didn’t have the jab is to get yourself down to your GP or medical centre – they’ll give it to you free. As it’s such a contagious condition some Universities now check-up to make sure you’re protected.


Also known as the ‘German Measles’ or the ‘Three day Measles’ rubella is a mild virus that is rarely dangerous in most circumstances. The initial symptoms of rubella are similar to a bad flu.  You’ll feel really tired and have achy muscles.  After this stage you’ll get a rash that’s similar to the one you get with measles.  With the infection often comes joint pain, particularly for young women. This joint pain can stay for about 2 weeks after the rash has gone.

However this mild-mannered measle (click here for details) can turn into a monster for girls who are pregnant. It can cross from the mother to the foetus and cause all sorts of foetal defects from cataracts in the eyes to deafness, with all sort of extremely unpleasant things in between.

Vaccination was introduced for pre-pubertal girls and other women at risk in 1970, prior to which the most common response for those women infected was abortion with up to 700 per year taking place. Back in those days abortion really was the action of last resort and as you can imagine it was extremely harrowing for all concerned.

These days most outbreaks of rubella involve young guys at University. However if you’re a girl and you haven’t had 2 shots of the MMR vaccine the general medical advice is to get to the clinic and ask for the jab.

tell the boys


We’ve included this article in the girl’s section of DW as the risks to women are much more impactful to women but while you’re thinking about it do mention it to your boyfriend, your brother or any other bloke you might be in close contact with. After all you wouldn’t want to be sharing your coffee mug with a carrier. Let alone have a mate’s nuts assume giant proportions!