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The MMR vaccine is a combination of three vaccines in one. This vaccine prevents measles, mumps and rubella, all viruses which mostly affect children.
In this video series, physicians at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explain how vaccines work and how they are made. The video also describes several vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Families share their stories of children affected by vaccine-preventable diseases.
Susan Coffin, MD: Hey, Jill, how are you?
Jill: Hi, Dr.Coffin
Susan Coffin, MD: Good to see you again.
Jill: Nice to see you too.
Susan Coffin, MD: Another vaccine that's really three vaccines in one is called MMR. The first M stands for disease that was once so common almost all children in the United States were infected by the time they were 10 years old. Measles is a virus that causes a rash that usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body. Most children who are infected recover fully. But before the measles vaccine, thousands of American children died each year from measles. They died because measles infected the brain, or they died because it infected their lungs. Now, about 9 out of every 10 children in the United States are immunized. And the incidence of measles infections has fallen dramatically. But because the measles epidemics have occurred in the U.S. as recently as 1991, we still need to keep our guard up.
The second M in the MMR vaccine stands for disease that caused children to have swelling of their cheeks that made them look like little chipmunks. Mumps is also caused by a virus. This virus usually infects the glands located just in front of the ear. These are called the parotid glands. Most children survive mumps infection without any difficulties. But infection with mumps isn't always so mild. That's because the mumps virus can also infect the brain and cause meningitis and deafness. In fact, mumps infections were one of the most common causes of deafness in the U.S. Now, because of the mumps vaccine, the infections caused by mumps virus have been significantly reduced. But mumps isn't gone. Every year cases of mumps still occur in the U.S.
The R in the MMR stands for a viral infection that was once a very common cause of severe birth defects. Rubella is a virus that typically infects children, causing a very mild illness with rash, low-grade fever, and swelling of the glands behind the ear. Children virtually always recover from rubella without any long-term problems. But when rubella infects pregnant women, the results are usually catastrophic. Most pregnant women infected with rubella early in their pregnancy either miscarry or deliver babies that are blind, deaf, or have heart defects. Before the rubella vaccine was used in the U.S., as many as 20,000; newborns every year were harmed by the rubella virus. 20,000 children. Now, because of the rubella vaccine, children are rarely harmed by the virus. The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine are all made the exact same way as the chicken pox vaccine. Natural measles, mumps, and rubella viruses were first isolated from people and then weakened in the laboratory.
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