Officials from Georgetown University School of Medicine and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health announced Thursday that a one-dose, pediatric formula vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has been packaged and shipped to Maryland hospitals, clinics and health care facilities statewide.
The vaccine is licensed for use in children under the age of 2.
According to the University, the vaccine will become available this fall in Maryland, which is the most populous state in the nation without a designated vaccination program for parents choosing not to vaccinate their children against measles.
“Delay in vaccinating against some diseases, especially among the young, can cause tragic health problems,” said Dr. Scott S. Silverman, professor of pediatrics and director of the emergency department at GUMC. “There are scientific reasons to think vaccines may not be the biggest cause of vaccine hesitancy among parents, and the science isn’t conclusive, but vaccination is a necessity if we want to prevent devastating health problems.”
Silverman, who is also chief of infectious diseases at Georgetown, is part of the group of scientists at GUMC and the University of Maryland School of Medicine whose research into the vaccine’s effectiveness led to its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We are grateful for all who have made this vaccine possible and who have encouraged their friends and families to get vaccinated,” said Sue Pounds, the Anne Arundel County public health chief and a member of the Immunization and Vaccine Advisory Committee. “The vaccine is especially important for young children because they are immune to a common side effect of measles vaccination, the measles so-called ‘measles encephalitis,’ and there is a high risk that immunocompromised children could be seriously harmed or even die if they get measles.”
This is the fourth seasonal vaccine approved in Maryland. Others are for hantavirus and measles, mumps and rubella.
According to the University, the efficacy of the vaccine has not been proven, and the risk of autism can be too small to be observed in large studies. Many parents question the safety of vaccines because they have heard or read antivaccine arguments, including a handful of studies funded by anti-vaccine groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with a number of evidence-based evaluations that have refuted many of the claims about the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
However, there are long-term effects associated with vaccines that are very real, and efforts to encourage vaccination have mostly focused on those issues.
For example, the CDC notes that “for some individuals (including some children with allergies and weakened immune systems), the immune system’s response is potentially greater to certain vaccines than it is to other vaccines. As a result, children may have a greater chance of experiencing adverse reactions than children whose immune systems are stronger.” The CDC also cautions that “individuals with weakened immune systems may have reactions that pose risks to health, and adverse reactions, even severe reactions, can occur with any vaccine. Those experiencing reactions should always tell their healthcare provider.”
However, parents are encouraged to report any serious reactions they experience to the Baltimore-based Maryland Vaccine Alliance, which has staff who can answer questions about the efficacy and side effects of vaccines. The AVA also has a number of helpful information for those considering whether to vaccinate their children.
More information on the benefits and risks of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine can be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/measles-mumps-rubella/retail/repository/LVRus.aspx. The information does not include all vaccines recommended for children in Maryland.