Disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should be considered medical advice. I am not a doctor and any health related decisions should be made between you and a trusted doctor.
I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I found out my daughter was severely allergic to eggs and that it was both kind of egg allergies. I was also very lucky that when Merck explains that it the MMR vaccine is “probably safe” to use even in children with egg allergies, my child’s doctor just isn’t comfortable with “probably safe.” You see, I really don’t like this vaccine, didn’t intend to give it to my daughter and am so relieved that I now have the perfect “excuse” not to.
That said, I often hear delayed-vax people say that for their daughters, they will just wait until they are about to head off to college and then vaccinate them then. See, Rubella (the “r” in the MMR) is a very dangerous disease to contract during pregnancy. So, the thought by delayed-vaxers is that they will just delay as long as possible.
It is not really that simple though.
I know that most parents are not completely pro-vax or non-vax, so I want to make sure that no one goes into this decision blindly.
Age Factors to Consider:
MMR for Infants
While some health departments get all antsy and suggest children get vaccinated with the MMR as early as six months (then at 12-15 months, then again at age four), Merck’s own product sheet explains that the younger the infant, the less likely it is to even work:
Safety and effectiveness of mumps and rubella vaccine in infants less than 12 months of age have not been established. The younger the infant, the lower the likelihood of seroconversion.
So, seriously take that into consideration when weighing how to best use your “aluminum allowance.” It is very likely that a child under one will not benefit from the MMR vaccine, and its safety in this age group has not been tested. It should be noted that extended breastfeeding would give your infant and toddler immense immune system benefits and the decision to wean early should be weighed against the tremendous benefits that breast milk offers from a health stand point.
MMR for Older Teen-Aged Girls
According to Merck’s own document for doctor’s informational sheet (found here), “Postpubertal females should be informed of the frequent occurrence of generally self-limited arthralgia.” That means that teenaged girls frequently develop arthritic like symptoms. They go on to explain that for women, joint pain and/or arthritis beginning 2 to 4 weeks after MMR injection from the vaccination is markedly longer and more severe and occurs at a frequency of 12 to 26 percent of the time. It should be noted that this usually resolves itself, but in some cases it doesn’t.
So, the plan to just wait until just before having babies is not the safest plan. It would be best to have the MMR done earlier. If I were going to do it, I would do it before her hormones started changing because one of Merck’s write-ups on their site suggests that this chronic pain is seen in in women and teenage girls and they aren’t specific on what “teen age” years it includes. Given this, and the younger ages that girls are starting their periods in this generation of children, perhaps early elementary school aged, might be the safest age for this vaccination.
Being a Minimalist
Get the most out of your vaccines
If you have to get your child vaccinated as an infant because of an outbreak situation, consider making sure that they are not vitamin A deficient. Supplementing with Vitamin A if your infant does not have enough in some circumstances may make the vaccine more effective. (Read more on that here.) If you feel you have to give it early, because of health department, child care or doctor pressure, you might as well try to ensure it’s as effective as possible so that repeat doses aren’t needed.
Screen for antibodies
The first dose of MMR vaccine produces good immunity to measles (95–98%), mumps (97%), and rubella (95%). The second dose of MMR is intended to produce immunity in those who did not respond to the first dose, but a very small percentage of people may not be protected even after a second dose.” (Read more on that here.) Prior to getting a second dose of the MMR, you can have your doctor test your child’s blood to see if it’s even needed.
Consider just getting vaccinated for Rubella
Another thing I wanted to share is that at my daughter’s allergist, that specialist doctor, said that if my daughter was allergic to any of the specific viruses in any of the vaccines, she could just do separate vaccinations for the more severe diseases. Now, my old pediatrician said that those didn’t exist, but Merck itself says that the Rubella vaccination is available on its own. “There are individual vaccines for measles, mumps, or rubella.” (Here’s a link, in case you feel like printing it up and taking it to the doctor.) I personally am not afraid of my children getting measles and I’ve explained why in a previous post but I know that many of you are very concerned with Rubella.
Rubella is a pretty benign disease as viral diseases go, but it is exceptionally deadly and damaging if contracted during pregnancy. If a woman has rubella during the first 3-4 months of her pregnancy, the virus can induce many different birth defects, some of which are quite severe.
I can’t make this decision for you, because I don’t have to live with the consequences and I am not a medical professional either. I consider myself lucky that I also can’t make this decision for my own child. Hopefully, these pointers gave you a little more awareness about how to proceed with the MMR in the safest way possible if you were planning to delay. With this information, what are your thoughts? Will it alter the age you had planned to give the MMR?
Your blog consistently makes me feel stupid…. in a good way. Thanks for sharing this info! MMR is no longer on our vaccine plan now (egg allergy too).
To be fair, MANY doctors say that the MMR is safe to give as long as they are monitored. Thankfully, I have a doctor who shares my concerns about injecting a known allergen, no matter how small the reaction. And if you read the insert of the package you will see that they say it’s probably safe as well.
Great information! Another blogger passed this on to me and I appreciate the insight.
Uhm. Dawn, I wouldn’t give anything to my babies that is only just “probably safe”.
Bridget, I agree with you personally. People have to make their own decisions. I just try to give them all the info I can, you know?
It is known that if measles, mumps and rubella are all caught early and treated, the likelyhood of death is extremely small. Non-vax mama here. My daughters are 4 and 3 and rarely get sick!