Preventing measles 

You can avoid catching measles by having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

If the MMR vaccine isn't suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if you're at immediate risk of catching measles.

MMR vaccine

Routine vaccination

The MMR vaccine is given as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. One dose is usually given to a child when they're 12-13 months old and a second dose is given before they start school, usually between three and five years old.

Contact your GP if you are uncertain about whether your child’s vaccinations are up to date.

You or your child can be vaccinated at any point if you haven't been fully vaccinated before. If you're not sure whether you were vaccinated in the past, having the vaccine again won't cause any harm.

Special circumstances

A dose of the MMR vaccine can also be given to anyone over six months of age if they're at an immediate risk of catching measles. For example, if:

  • there's an outbreak of measles in your local area
  • you've been in close contact with someone who has measles
  • you're planning on travelling to an area where the infection is widespread

Children who have the vaccine before their first birthday should still have the two routine doses at around 13 months of age and before they start school.

Human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG)

HNIG is a special concentration of antibodies that can give short-term but immediate protection against measles.

It may be recommended for people in the following groups if they've been exposed to someone with measles:

  • babies under six months of age
  • pregnant women who haven't been fully vaccinated or had measles before
  • people with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV or having treatment that weakens their immune system (such as treatment for leukaemia)

HNIG should ideally be given within six days of exposure.

Stopping measles spreading to others

If you already have measles, it's important to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other people.

You should:

  • avoid work or school for at least four days from when you first developed the measles rash
  • try to avoid contact with people who are more vulnerable to the infection, such as young children and pregnant women, while you're ill

Page last reviewed: 11/09/2015

Next review due: 11/09/2017