Parents worried about giving their children the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine can do one simple thing instead: just give them plenty of vitamin A.
Although the vitamin can’t stop children catching measles, it protects them against its worst effects.
Measles is often classified as a killer – usually by health agencies trying to scare parents into vaccinating their children – but it is a relatively benign disease in those who are not deficient in the vitamin.
Researchers at the Cochrane Institute, who studied 43 trials involving 215,633 children, discovered that vitamin A is a life-saver, as it prevents deaths in children who catch measles and suffer from diarrhea, which, on its own, is a major killer in developing countries.
Even giving the standard recommended dose of vitamin A reduced the risk of death by 24 per cent, the Cochrane researchers found, which equates to saving the lives of around 1 million children every year.
(Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010, issue 12, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008524,pub2).