MMR vaccine is safe, effective and gives long-term protection: Qatar Ministry

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The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has affirmed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine “is safe, effective and gives long-term protection”, and this has been proved by its use globally for more than 40 years.

The MoPH also dismissed rumours, which had been spreading through social media, of links between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The ministry is set to conduct a national immunisation campaign against measles, mumps and rubella from tomorrow until November 14, targeting about 294,000 children aged one to 13 years across the country.

In a press statement yesterday, the MoPH said the MMR vaccine that would be used during the campaign had been licensed for use in Qatar and approved by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Committee.

The vaccine is also approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), US Food and Drug Administration and GCC unified drugs and vaccines purchase specifications committee, the statement noted.

The vaccine does not include lead or aluminium and is used in MMR vaccination campaigns in neighbouring GCC countries, according to the ministry.

The statement points out that the national campaign for MMR immunisation has been “planned and prepared in accordance with WHO recommendations following measles cases registered in Qatar – 18 in 2015 and 22 in the past few months – within the campaign’s targeted age group of one to 13 years.

According to the official Qatar News Agency, the ministry has highlighted the importance of taking the MMR booster dose to prevent the diseases, noting that about 3-5% of children do not develop sufficient immunity against the diseases after the first or second dose.

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Further, the MoPH stressed that it followed the best international standards to ensure the health and safety of Qatar’s citizens and residents, adding that the State “spared no effort for the preservation of lives and the protection of children, ensuring that the community was healthy and free of infectious diseases and epidemics”.

It explained that vaccination was one of the best and most important ways to prevent infectious diseases, adding that the national programme of immunisation had contributed during the past years to the elimination of a number of infectious diseases in Qatar, including smallpox, polio, neonatal tetanus, tetanus and diphtheria. According to WHO, the national MMR programme is considered to be the best in the region, the statement said.

In a bid to allay fears over rumours spreading through social media, the ministry affirmed that the vaccine was “safe and effective”. It said extensive studies had proven that there was no link between MMR and autism and that most of the rumours were based on an incorrect study conducted by a doctor in 1998 and had been refuted ever since. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences had announced that there was no connection between MMR or any of its components and autism.

The MoPH noted that the National Immunisation Programme was established in 1979 and MMR was introduced to the national immunisation schedule in 1992. Qatar has achieved over 95% immunisation coverage, which has significantly contributed to reducing the rates of morbidity and mortality due to disease that can be prevented by immunisation, according to the statement.

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In the context of ensuring the safety of vaccines, the MoPH has established a programme to follow up on the side effects of vaccines, the statement said.

Further, the statement pointed that the “MMR vaccine contained devitalised viruses with minimised ability to morbidity in order to stimulate the human immune system to build its immunity”. It added that the presence of more than one devitalised virus in the vaccine leads to the creation of a strong but not sufficient immunity, which is the reason for a second and a booster doses in different stages of age.

The ministry urged citizens and residents not to pay attention to rumours and seek health information from official sources at the MoPH.

The ministry has said it is ready to receive queries about the campaign on the following hotlines – 66740948 for Arabic and 66740951 for English – as well as through e-mail – cdcmoph.gov.qa

More information can be obtained from Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) https://www.moph.gov.qa/home-en