Vaccinations

How is the MMR vaccine given?

The MMR vaccine is given as a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm. There may be some redness and swelling on the skin where the injection is given, but this should soon disappear.

Here are some practical tips for parents taking a child for MMR vaccination to ease their discomfort.

MMR dosing schedule

The  first dose of MMR is given to babies aged around 13 months and the second dose between the ages of three and five years. In adults, the second dose must be given at least one month after the first.

Single vaccines

Single vaccines for the three separate conditions (measles, mumps and rubella) are not available on the NHS, but are available at some private clinics. However, there are certain drawbacks to single vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella:

  • having each of the single vaccines separately usually involves scheduling them several weeks or months apart, and the government recommends that children should have the MMR vaccine within a set timescale.
  • Using single vaccinations increases the risk of fewer children receiving all the necessary injections.
  • The delay between the six separate injections required could put more children at risk of developing measlesmumps or rubella, as well as increase the risk of side effects.

There are currently no licensed single vaccines for measles or mumps in the UK, which means the single vaccines available have not been quality checked to make sure they are safe and effective.

When should you not have the MMR vaccine?

Very few people are unable to have the MMR vaccine for medical reasons. However, as a general rule, you should not have the MMR vaccine if you:

  • are pregnant (women should avoid becoming pregnant for one month after having the MMR vaccine)
  • have had an injection of immunoglobulin (antibodies to help fight infection) or another blood product in the previous three months
  • have already had a severe allergic reaction to neomycin (an antibiotic) or gelatin (a substance that is used in foods such as jelly)
  • have a weakened immune system 

If you have previously had an allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine, you may not be able to have another dose. You can discuss with a specialist the risks of not having the full dose of MMR, versus the likelihood and potential severity of having another allergic reaction if you choose to have another dose.

Page last reviewed: 11/08/2013

Next review due: 11/08/2015

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