Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccination

The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective combined vaccine. It protects against three serious illnesses:

These highly infectious conditions can easily spread between unvaccinated people. Getting vaccinated is important, as these conditions can also lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

If you have any questions about vaccinations, you can:

Getting vaccinated

The MMR vaccine is given to babies and young children as part of the NHS vaccination schedule.

However, If you think your child might be behind on their MMR or any other vaccination you can check your child’s health record (red book) or contact your GP to see if they are up to date. If the MMR vaccine has been missed, it can still be given at any age.

It’s important to catch up on any missed vaccines. You can still ask your GP surgery for the MMR vaccine if your child has missed either of these 2 doses.

What to do if you think you have measles

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth. It’s very unlikely to be measles if you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine or you’ve had measles before.

Measles symptoms to be aware of include:

  • high fever
  • sore, red, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • aching and feeling generally unwell
  • a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms.

Anyone with symptoms of measles is advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice. 

Stay off nursery, school or work for at least 4 days from when the rash first appears. Also try to avoid close contact with babies and anyone who is pregnant or has a weakened immune system.

More information about measles is available on the NHS website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get my child an MMR vaccine?

Children will be invited by their GP for their MMR immunisation when they reach the required age:

  • 12 months for a first dose
  • 3 years four months for a second dose

Partially or unvaccinated individuals may also be offered a dose if the opportunity arises.

If you think your child might be behind on their MMR or any other vaccination you can check your child’s health record (red book) or contact your GP to see if they are up to date.

What if I never had an MMR vaccination when I was a child?

Anyone who has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine should ask their GP surgery for a vaccination appointment.

It’s important to check you’ve had both doses if you:

  • are about to start college or university
  • are going to travel abroad
  • are planning a pregnancy
  • are a frontline health or social care worker
  • were born between 1970 and 1979, as you may have only been vaccinated against measles
  • were born between 1980 and 1990, as you may not be protected against mumps

Effectiveness of the MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine is very effective. After 2 doses:

  • around 99% of people will be protected against measles and rubella
  • around 88% of people will be protected against mumps

People who are vaccinated against mumps, but still catch it, are less likely to have serious complications or be admitted to hospital. Protection against measles, mumps and rubella starts to develop around 2 weeks after having the MMR vaccine.

How do I check if I have had the MMR vaccine?

Your GP surgery should be able to check whether you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine. You may also be able to access your vaccination record online through GP online services. Read about how to access your health records.

If your vaccination records are not available, or do not exist, it will not harm you to have the MMR vaccine again.

How does the MMR vaccine work?

The MMR vaccine is a live vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Two doses are given by injection into the leg or upper arm.

Your immune system responds to the vaccine by producing cells which recognize and remember each of the three viruses. If you are in contact with any of the diseases in the future, these cells will wake up and activate your body to rapidly produce antibodies. This protection is usually long lasting.

Side effects of the MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine is very safe. Most side effects are mild and do not last long, such as:

  • the area where the needle goes in looking red, swollen and feeling sore for 2 to 3 days
  • around 7 to 11 days after the injection, babies or young children may feel a bit unwell or develop a high temperature for about 2 or 3 days
  • Some children might also cry and be upset immediately after the injection. This is normal and they should feel better after a cuddle.

It’s important to remember that the possible complications of infectious conditions, such as measles, mumps and rubella, are much more serious. You can read more about side effects on the NHS website.

Should I be worried about autism?

There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The original research which suggested a link has now been discredited. The National Autistic Society in the UK has issued a statement saying that ‘there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine’.

There are many studies that have investigated this. The Oxford University Vaccine Knowledge Project website has a list of MMR studies and their findings

Does the MMR vaccine contain pork gelatine?

In the UK, we have two MMR vaccines which work very well. One of them contains gelatine derived from pigs and the other one doesn’t. If you would prefer to have the vaccine that does not contain any pork products, talk to your practice nurse or GP.

Leaflets with more information about the ingredients are available to download in the following languages:

Will my child react to the MMR vaccine if he/she is allergic to egg?

The MMR vaccine can be safely given to children who have a severe allergy to egg. This is because MMR vaccine is grown on chick cells, not the egg white or yolk. If you have any concerns, please speak with your GP or practice nurse.

I have seen lots of anti-vaccination messages on social media and the internet

Anti-vaccine stories are often spread online through social media and offline. Always get your vaccine and health information from trusted sources, such as the NHS or World Health Organisation (WHO). The vaccine information on social media may not be based on scientific evidence and could put your child at risk of a serious illness. All the current evidence tells us that getting vaccinated is safer than not getting vaccinated. The NHS website has some useful information on why vaccination is safe and important Why vaccination is important and the safest way to protect yourself – NHS (

Is catching the diseases better/safer than having the vaccine?

MMR immunisation is the safest way that parents can protect their children against these serious diseases. Measles, Mumps and Rubella are highly infectious and can lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy. Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases.

It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and treating them. Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often give you lifelong protection. Catching measles would not protect you from mumps or rubella.

These disease are no longer around in the UK, does my child really need the vaccination?

There is a large measles outbreak in the UK (as of Jan 24). Measles is one of the most highly communicable infectious diseases. Spending more than 15 minutes in direct contact with someone infected with measles is sufficient to transmit virus. It is spread through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions. Measles can be serious, particularly for people whose immune system is not working normally. The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination.



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