Vaccinations

Who should have the MMR vaccine?

MMR vaccination is routinely given to children as part of the NHS childhood immunisation programme.

It can also be given on the NHS to older children and adults and babies over six months of age that need to be protected against measles, mumps and rubella and/or in the event of a measles outbreak

Which children should have the MMR vaccine?

The first dose of the MMR vaccine is offered to all babies between the ages of 12 and 13 months.

Children are given a second dose of MMR before they start school, usually between the ages of three and five, although the second dose can be given as quickly as three months after the first if there's an urgent need such as in an outbreak.

The second dose of MMR boosts children's protection against measles, mumps and rubella. 

Up to one in 10 of children are not fully immune after their first dose of MMR but less than one in a hundred children are still at risk after the second dose.

Which children should not have the MMR vaccine?

You should postpone your child's MMR jab if they're ill and have a fever (high temperature).

You may also want to postpone MMR vaccination if your child has had a bad reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine. It doesn’t rule out having a further dose, but it’s a good idea to speak to your GP, practice nurse or health visitor.

Your child should NOT have the MMR vaccination if they:

  • are taking high-dose steroid tablets, or are taking lower doses either alongside other drugs or over a long time. If you’re not sure, check with your GP
  • have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction (a severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of the MMR vaccine or a component of it
  • are being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or have had these treatments within the last six months
  • have had an organ transplant and are on immunosuppressant drugs (drugs which stop your immune system working properly) 
  • have had a bone marrow transplant and finished all immunosuppressive therapy within the last 12 months
  • have a lowered immune system. If you’re not sure, check with your GP

Catching up on the MMR vaccine

Adults and children who are not immune because they missed one or all MMR doses when younger can have the MMR vaccine on the NHS at any age. This may include:

  • Teenagers
  • Adults
  • Travellers
  • Women preparing for pregnancy
  • People exposed to measles during a measles outbreak

Teenagers and MMR

Teenagers attending for their 3-in-1 teenage booster are generally checked at the same time for MMR immunity. If they are not immune, as a result of having missed MMR vaccination when they were younger, they can be given two doses of MMR vaccine on the NHS to protect them.

It's especially important for teenagers leaving home for college to be up-to-date with the MMR vaccine as they are at higher risk of mumps.

Read why it's important for teenagers to be protected against mumps.

Adults and MMR

Adults who missed out on MMR as a baby and are therefore not immune can have both MMR vaccine doses within a month of each other on the NHS.

Some adults may not have received full protection due to changes in the MMR vaccine. Anyone born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received a mumps vaccine, and anyone born between 1970 and 1979 may have only had a measles vaccine. If you fall into one of these groups ask your GP for the MMR vaccination.

Travellers and MMR

Anyone who is travelling to an area that is known to have had outbreaks of measles, mumps or rubella should receive the MMR vaccine before they travel.

Here's more information on travel vaccinations.

Pregnancy and the MMR vaccine

If you are considering becoming pregnant, ask your GP to check whether you are fully immune to rubella, because rubella in pregancy can cause serious problems in the developing baby. 

Your GP can check your immunity with a simple blood test. If you have low or uncertain immunity against rubella, you will be offered MMR vaccination. Rubella vaccination is only available on the NHS as part of the combined MMR vaccine 

You'll be advised to try to avoid becoming pregnant for one month after having MMR vaccination.

If you weren't checked before conceiving and your immunity is subsequently found to be low through routine antenatal blood tests, you will be offered an MMR vaccination to protect you against rubella after the birth of your baby, usually at their six-week postnatal check.

MMR during measles outbreaks

In the event of a measles outbreak, the MMR vaccine can be given to protect people who have come into contact with the condition in the previous three days. This is because measles antibodies develop more quickly following vaccination than they do after a natural infection.

It isn't harmful to have an MMR vaccination if you are already immune. So, if there is any doubt about whether you have already been vaccinated go ahead and ask your GP for 'catch up' vaccination.

Now, read how the MMR vaccination is given.

Page last reviewed: 11/08/2013

Next review due: 11/08/2015

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

patchkirk said on 21 April 2013

What is the position with regard to immunity against measles for young adults born in the 1980s who had the single measles vaccination (at ages between 15 and 22 months)? (They do not need a mumps vaccination as they have suffered from mumps.)

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