Dr. Hamad Bin Khalid writes about the ongoing MR Vaccine campaign and its importance in India.
What is MR Vaccine?
- MR vaccine is Measles and Rubella Vaccine, administered for immunity against the contagious viral diseases Measles and Rubella which is also known as German Measles.
- Measles and Rubella are viral diseases which clinically manifest as fever with rashes. The viruses are transmitted through Respiratory tract through the air as droplets or free pathogens in the air after sneezing, coughing by an infected person.
- MR vaccine is to be administered to every child between the age group of 10 months to 15 years of age.
Why This MR Vaccine Campaign Now?
- Measles and Rubella vaccine is a WHO prequalified vaccine being administered in a phased manner in India. It is already being used in over 150 countries around the globe under supervision by the WHO. In the first phase, it was given in the 5 states/UT (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry) earlier in the year. The campaign entered the second phase from October 3rd to November 3rd, 2017 for states including Kerala.
- As per the national immunization schedule, measles vaccine is given to the baby at 9 months and MMR vaccine at 15 months. Of these vaccines, the immunization efficiency attained is about 90 percent for measles as well as Rubella.
- The objective of the MR vaccine campaign is to improve the efficiency of immunization to cent percentage and hence help eradicate measles and Rubella.
Are Measles and Rubella Very Dangerous Diseases?
Infection with Measles is followed by high fever, rash that spreads over the body, cough, running nose and red watery eyes.
- Measles weakens the immune system of the body. Hence infection with Measles often leads to serious complications that include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
- Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease.
- One-third of all measles-related deaths worldwide occur in India.
Rubella is a mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.
- Infection with Rubella is followed by rash and low fever. It may be associated with swelling of lymph node and joint pain.
- Rubella infection during pregnancy especially the first 3 months of the pregnancy can cause abortion, stillbirth and may lead to multiple birth defects in the newborn like blindness, deafness, heart defects, known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
- India accounts for around one-third of all children born worldwide with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
- Every year in India about 40,000 children are born with such defects due to congenital rubella syndrome
How Safe is This MR Vaccine Used in This Campaign?
- It is completely safe to administer the MR vaccine which is a World Health Organisation prequalified vaccine used efficaciously in over 150 countries all over the world over several decades.
- It’s been used to eliminate measles and Rubella in the American Region and accepted worldwide.
- Each vaccine is marked with a vaccine vial monitor to know of the quality of the vaccine used.
Is This Vaccine Banned in Any Countries?
MR vaccine is not banned in any part of the world and is widely used with more acceptance as ever before.
Why is This Vaccine Administered Only to Those Children Above 10 Months to 15 Years?
The MR vaccine is to be administered only to those children above 10 months of age because until the 9-10 months the baby is protected by the maternal immunity, in other words, the immunity shared by the mother to the baby. By 9th month it starts fading out.
The national immunization schedule in India covers the age group till 15 years of age because children are vulnerable till 15 years of age. it is not a strictly advocated bar in terms of the upper age limit. Any age group can take the vaccine if not contraindicated. But the vaccination campaign is aimed only at children less than 15 years of age. The vaccine is better avoided in:
- Children with known history of allergy to Measles or rubella vaccine in the past
- Children with high fever, hospitalized children.
- Children with other serious illnesses and on medications.
- Pregnant ladies.
If Rubella Vaccine is Aimed at Preventing Birth Defects, Why are Boys Being Vaccinated?
No vaccine gives a 100 percentage assurance and there may be a missed out girl child who may get infected from a nonimmunized boy through the respiratory route. As we live in a community there are chances that a male may carry the pathogen and cough out to infect a pregnant female. Hence we are aiming for a complete Herd immunity.
Males and females are at an equal risk of getting infected as well as transmitting the rubella virus, if not already protected against the disease. Hence, both boys and girls need to take Measles Rubella vaccine in routine immunization as well as during Measles Rubella vaccination campaign.
If A Child is Immunized Prior Does He/She also Get Vaccinated with This MR Campaign?
Yes. The child vaccinated with a dose of Measles or MMR vaccine prior may be immunized with the MR vaccine for an additive immunity. The only thing to keep in mind is that the gap between the two vaccines should be at least 4 weeks as the vaccines we administer are live attenuated vaccines. The additional dose wouldn’t harm the child at all.
This vaccine is not a substitute to any of the routine vaccines and all vaccines as per the national immunization schedule are to be administered without fail in addition to this MR vaccine.
Shall the Vaccine be Administered If the Child had a History of Measles or Rubella in the Past?
History of previous episodes of measles or rubella is not a limiting factor for the administration of MR vaccine. For a healthy recovered child after a minimum of 4 weeks from the onset of disease episode, the vaccine may be administered. This will improve the immune status of the child.