Speaking Points Regarding MMR Vaccine

MMR Vaccine

Q. A recent 60 Minutes story (Nov 12, 2000) suggested individual shots for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Is this possible?

  • There is no scientific reason for, or benefit to, separating the shots.
  • By separating the shots, we are putting children (and pregnant women who may be exposed to them) at increased risk by extending the amount of time they go unvaccinated. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk that children may not receive all the shots they need if their parents have to 
schedule additional appointments for immunizations.
  • We are increasing our children's discomfort. Instead of receiving two shots, 
they will receive six shots.
  • At this time we simply do not have enough individual vaccine supply to make 
the individual shots possible. Again, children who don't receive the currently 
available combination shot are put at needless risk.
  • The fact is that the current evidence does not show that the MMR vaccine 
causes autism. We cannot let the media dictate our immunization schedule. Frightening reports should not carry more weight than hard, factual science.

  Q. Is there a link between measles vaccination and autism?

  • No, there is no scientifically proven link between measles vaccination and autism.
  • Autism is a chronic developmental disorder, often first identified in toddlers from age 13 months to 30 months. MMR is administered just before the peak age of onset of autism, leading some parents to assume a causal relationship.
  • A recent study in the British journal Lancet showed that there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.
  • The CDC continues to conduct studies to further assure the safety of vaccines.
  • Increasing evidence indicates that autism is determined early in the pregnancy 
(during the first trimester).

  Q. What about Dr. Wakefield's research showing a link between MMR and autism?

  • Dr. Wakefield's research has been refuted by reliable investigators at his own hospital, as well as throughout Europe and the U.S.
  • Careful studies by expert virologists in England, Ireland, Germany and the U.S. all confirmed that his lab tests were contaminated with intestinal proteins, which were what he measured, and not measles virus.
  • Dr. Wakefield claims that he did biopsies of intestine that showed measles virus in children with autism. But in fact, the same specimens were studied by experts, and they found no measles virus. Instead they found normal proteins of the intestine.

  Q. Why are we seeing a rise in the incidence of autism?

  • Doctors use a book called the Diagnostic Statistical Manual to help them diagnose cases of autism. In the past decade, the guidelines in that book have changed. They have become more inclusive. So children who used to be considered “learning delayed” or to have “behavior problems.” may now be more correctly diagnosed with mild autism.
  • Parents and medical professionals are simply more aware of the condition and are more likely to pursue a diagnosis and treatment than in years past. As there are more state and federally funded programs available for children with autism, there is an increased incentive to make a diagnosis, so those children will have access to those programs.
  • There may well be an increase in the number of children who have autism. But there have already been studies completed that show that MMR does not cause autism. Many studies are underway both nationally and internationally to try to determine the cause for the perceived increase in cases of autism.

  Q. What can happen if I don't get my child immunized?

  • Without immunizations, your child can catch diseases that may cause high fever, coughing, choking, breathing problems, and even brain injury.
  • These illnesses may leave your child deaf or blind, cause paralysis, and even death.
  • Before measles immunizations were available, nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles. There were approximately 3 to 4 million measles cases each year. An average of 450 measles-associated deaths were reported each year between 1953 and 1963.
  • Despite this and other successes, some parents still refuse to have their child immunized. This not only puts their child at risk, it also opens up the possibility of outbreaks in schools, child care centers and other public settings.

  Q. Why should we still vaccinate against measles when cases are so uncommon?

  • Measles virus is common throughout the world and is frequently imported into the U.S. In 1996, 47 cases were known to have been imported by people travelling to the U.S. from other countries. In all of 1998 and 1999 U.S. measles cases reported were linked to imported cases.
  • Before measles immunizations were available, nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles. There were approximately 3 to 4 million measles cases each year. An average of 450 measles-associated deaths were reported each year between 1953 and 1963.
  • A reduction in measles vaccination rates would substantially increase the potential size and morbidity of any outbreak. That means we would see more people die from measles.

  Q. What are the known complications of measles vaccination?

  • Measles vaccine is very safe; most people have no reactions.
  • About 5 percent to 15 percent of vaccine recipients may develop a fever five to 12 days after MMR vaccination. The fever usually lasts one to two days and usually is not associated with other symptoms. About 5 percent of MMR 
recipients may develop a transient rash one to two weeks after immunization.
  • Central nervous system disturbances, such as encephalitis, have been reported with a frequency of less than one per 1 million doses administered, a frequency many times lower than the incidence of serious central nervous system 
disorders that follow natural infection at a rate of one per 800.

  Q. Aren't measles, mumps and rubella relatively harmless illnesses?


  • Highly contagious respiratory disease.
  • Causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, lasting about 
a week.
  • Causes ear infections and pneumonia in 1 out of every 12 children who get it.
  • Causes encephalitis that can lead to convulsions, deafness or mental 
retardation in 1 to 2 of every 2,000 people who get it.
  • In 1989-90, there was a measles epidemic, resulting in 55,000 cases of 
measles, resulting in 11,000 hospitalizations, and 123 deaths. The majority of 
these cases were in unimmunized preschool children.
  • Of every 1,000 people who get measles, 1 to 2 will die.
  • Measles vaccine (contained in MMR, MR and measles vaccines) can prevent 
this disease.


  • Causes fever, headache and swelling of one or both cheeks or sides of the jaw.
  • Four to six persons out of 100 who get mumps will get meningitis.
  • Inflammation of the testicles occurs in about 4 of every 10 adult males who get 
mumps, which may lead to sterility.
  • May result in hearing loss, which is usually permanent.


  • Also known as German measles
  • Mild disease in children and young adults, causing rash and fever for 2 to 3 
  • Causes devastating birth defects if acquired by a pregnant woman; there is at 
least 80% chance of damage to the fetus if a woman is infected early in pregnancy.