Medical Q&As

MMR - vaccination brought forward?

My son is almost 12 months old; I have just received notification to get his MMR vaccine at 12 months instead of 15 months. Why is this and what are the health implications?

The age for administering the MMR vaccine has been brought forward to 12 months because of the worrying decline in the level of uptake of MMR. We have reached the stage in Ireland where the number of children being vaccinated is insufficient to prevent outbreaks of measles from occurring. In the year 2,000 there were 1,600 cases of measles predominantly clustered in the north side of Dublin. Three children died during that same year from measles. Partly as a result of that outbreak the age of immunisation was lowered to twelve months because it was feared that in the event of a further measles outbreak many children could be infected if vaccination did not take place until fifteen months. It is worth noting that there were 10,000 notified cases of measles in Ireland in 1985 just prior to the introduction of measles vaccination and that the disease has been virtually eliminated through comprehensive vaccination in Finland, Sweden, Spain and the USA. It is also worth bearing in mind that measles is the eight largest killer of children in the world with a death rate of approximately 1,000,000 children per annum. Vaccination is also very important for the protection of children who cannot be vaccinated such as children with leukaemia, those undergoing chemotherapy for childhood cancer and children with reduced levels of immunity. If the level of vaccination continues to fall those particular children are at risk of succumbing to a fatal dose of measles. Finally there are no negative health implications in vaccinating a child at twelve months as opposed to vaccinating at fifteen months.