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MMR vaccine, United Kingdom, 1999

The MMR vaccine is a combined vaccine used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. The vaccine was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1988 and meant that young children only had to endure one vaccination instead of three. The vaccine is given at 13 months and a booster given at two to five years of age to give life long immunity. This example was made by Aventis Pasteur MSD Ltd. A scientific paper in 1998 suggested a link between the vaccine and autism. This caused a decline in the number of children being vaccinated. Single vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella were and still are offered by certain doctors. Many studies have demonstrated, however, that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

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Glossary: immunity

The condition of being immune, the protection against infectious disease conferred either by the immune response generated by immunisation or previous infection or by other nonimmunologic factors.

Glossary: measles

Disease caused by a virus most commonly found in children. Measles is spread through airborne fluids. In roughly the last 150 years, measles has been estimated to have killed 200 million people worldwide.

Glossary: vaccine

A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.

Glossary: rubella

A mild but highly contagious virus infection, causing swelling of glands in the neck and a widespread pink rash. Rubella is more common during childhood.

Glossary: MMR vaccine

Combined vaccination for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (German measles). It is given to children aged 13 months, with a booster dose at 3-5 years. The vaccine is widely used. In the UK, the MMR vaccine was controversially but incorrectly linked with autism.

Glossary: mumps

Mumps is an infectious disease spread by airborne droplets from the nose or throat. Its symptoms include swelling of the glands in the neck, making it difficult to eat or swallow. The disease is most common in children, but if contracted in adults the effects can be more severe. An effective vaccine exists and is given in the UK as part of the MMR jab.

Glossary: autism

A psychiatric condition that begins in childhood. Its symptoms include difficulties forming relationships and communicating. Sometimes autism is marked with high intelligence in specific areas, but with learning difficulties in other areas. A person can suffer from different levels of autism, from minor to severe.