MMR vaccination rates in the United States are relatively high, with 2011 data estimating that 91.6% of children aged 19–35 months received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine and that 91.1% of adolescents aged 13–17 years received at least two doses of the vaccine.
As a result of these vaccination rates, the United States has seen a 99% decrease in the number of mumps cases from their peak and has successfully eliminated indigenous transmission of measles and rubella. The associated decrease in morbidity and mortality has translated into a savings of $3.5 billion in direct costs and $7.6 billion in societal costs. Still, some parents are concerned that the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits, and pharmacists need to be knowledgeable in responding to people with questions.
Safety of the MMR vaccine, in regard to causing autism, was questioned in a British article, which has since been withdrawn by the journal, with the lead author accused of fraud. Despite this, some people still question the MMR vaccine's safety, and it has been difficult to regain their confidence. Four large population-based studies found no association between the MMR vaccine and developmental delay, including autism. Additionally, the vaccine has never contained thimerosal, the preservative claimed to cause autism—again, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
Pharmacists are in a unique position to educate parents and alleviate potential concerns about vaccinating their children and themselves. Even though measles, mumps, and rubella are rare in the United States because of successful vaccination efforts, the risk of importation of these diseases from other countries remains quite real. Choosing not to vaccinate not only puts the individual at risk but also the entire community. Pharmacists should communicate this information to their patients so that they fully understand the risks and benefits of vaccination and are able to make educated decisions.