Vaccinations

MMR vaccine

MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses.

Measles, mumps and rubella are common, highly infectious conditions that can have serious, potentially fatal, complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis), and deafness.

They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage. 

Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, it's rare for children in the UK to develop these serious conditions. However, outbreaks happen and cases of measles in particular have been rising in recent years, so it's important to make sure your children and yourself are up-to-date with MMR vaccination.

MMR vaccine for babies and pre-schoolers

MMR vaccine is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday.

They will then have a second injection of the vaccine before starting school, usually between the ages of three and five.

The MMR vaccine can sometimes be given to babies from six months of age if they may have been exposed to the measles virus, or during a measles outbreak.  

Babies under six months old are not routinely given the MMR vaccine. This is because the antibodies to measles, mumps and rubella passed from their mothers at the time of birth are retained and can work against the vaccine, meaning it’s not usually effective. However, this means the risk of any side effects is even lower among these younger babies, because the antibodies passed from the mother stop the viruses in the vaccine from growing. These maternal antibodies decline with age and are almost all gone by the time that MMR is normally given – around one year old.

In certain circumstances, for example during a measles outbreak, MMR vaccination is recommended for six- to nine-month-old babies if they are at high risk of becoming infected. However, these children may not have sufficient protection from this early dose, so they will still need the standard MMR doses at 12-13 months and 40 months of age.

The MMR vaccine is given as a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm.

Read more about which children and adults should have the MMR vaccine.

MMR for older children

Children of any age up to 18 who missed, or only partially completed, their earlier MMR vaccination, can have a 'catch-up' MMR vaccination on the NHS.  

If you know, or suspect, your child hasn't been fully immunised, arrange with your GP for them to have a catch-up MMR vaccination,

MMR for women planning pregnancy

If you are a woman thinking about getting pregnant you may need MMR vaccination if you have low levels of rubella antibodies or you haven't had a rubella or MMR vaccination before.

Ask your GP to check if you're not sure whether you've had rubella or MMR before. They can arrange MMR vaccination to protect you against rubella.

Be aware that the MMR vaccination is not suitable for women who are already pregnant or who become pregnant soon after (within one month of) vaccination.

MMR for non-immune adults

The MMR vaccine can also be given on the NHS to adults who may need it, including people born between 1970 and 1979 who may have only been vaccinated against measles, as well as those born between 1980 and 1990 who may not be protected against mumps.

Check with your GP if you're not sure whether you've had MMR. If in doubt, go ahead and have the MMR vaccination. Even if you've had it before, it won't harm you to have a second or even third course of the vaccination.

Read more about when the MMR vaccine is needed.

Read why some teenagers should have MMR vaccination.

Get advice on how to protect yourself and your family if there's a measles outbreak.

How the MMR vaccine works

The MMR vaccine contains weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses.

The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella.

If you or your child then comes into contact with one of the diseases, the immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it.

It's not possible for people who have recently had the vaccine to infect other people.

The MMR vaccine given in the UK is known under the brand names Priorix or MMR VaxPRO.

Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?

There has been some controversy about whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism, following a study published in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield. In his paper published in The Lancet, Dr Wakefield claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease.

However, Andrew Wakefield's work has since been completely discredited and he has been struck off as a doctor in the UK. Subsequent studies during the last eight years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease.

Single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines

Single vaccines are not available on the NHS in the UK because there is a risk that fewer children would receive all the necessary injections, increasing the levels of measles, mumps and rubella in the UK.

The delay in having six separate injections would also put more children at risk of developing the conditions, as well as increasing the amount of work and inconvenience for parents and those administering the vaccines. 

Side effects of MMR vaccine

As there are three separate vaccines within a single injection, different side effects can occur at different times. The side effects of the MMR vaccine are usually mild. It's important to remember that they're milder than the potential complications of measles, mumps and rubella.

Side effects include:

  • developing a mild form of measles that lasts for two to three days
  • developing a mild form of mumps that lasts for a day or two

In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots may appear a number of weeks after the injection. See your GP if you notice this kind of rash, or if you have any concerns about your child's symptoms following the MMR.

Read more about how MMR is given.

This leaflet tells you the common vaccination reactions (PDF, 64kb) that may happen in babies and young children up to five years of age.

Read the answers to other common questions about the MMR vaccine.


Page last reviewed: 11/08/2013

Next review due: 11/08/2015

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Comments

The 14 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

bettanjo said on 21 May 2014

re Hippie. You are mixing up two separate concerns. 1. Combining several vaccinations in one session and the link between MMR and autism. In response to your comment on mixing several vaccines, this is a piece of cake for the immune system compared to the amount of "attacks" from the number of viruses and bacteria a body is exposed to in just living normal life one day.
In regards to the link between MMR and autism there have been several long term studies. One particular birth cohort study is of interest from Japan involving 300,000 children. The incidence of autism rose when MMR vaccines were not administered. This proves that withdrawal of MMR vaccine will not lead to a reduction in the incidence of autism!

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Hippie said on 04 February 2014

In June 2009 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation concluded that there is no scientific reason to keep the combined Hib and Meningitis C vaccine (currently given at 12 months) and the MMR and pneumococcal vaccines (given at 13 months) separate.”
The “no scientific reason” is grossly misleading. It should be obvious that safety Concerns cannot be identified if the study is not designed to detect them. Autistic regression is known to occur gradually over periods of weeks to many months. In spite of this, the vast majority of studies which are presumed to provide conclusive evidence on the safety of vaccines, have short follow ups and focus almost exclusively upon acute near-immediate events.

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My own truth said on 28 January 2014

Please do not pontificate about the MMR vaccination link to autism , unless like me you lost your magical son on the day you vaccinated him to a life trapped in autism.
There is not an hour that goes by when I do not hate myself for this choice.
Wakefield unwittingly has done more to promote uptake of the MMR than any government ever could. What is better than no evidence against the MMR jab than to have discredited evidence. This means all future doctors will avoid further research for fear of ridicule.
When a link is found in future years as inevitably it will be, there is not enough compensation money for the world governments to ever to say sorry . Remember Tony Blair did not give the MMR to his children ever wondered why …Sadly I don’t wonder anymore , but I often cry myself to sleep .
A father who took away the life his son could have had ..

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myalinda said on 09 November 2013

I recently had my child vaccinated against measles, now at age one, two months after the first measles vaccine was administered I noticed a lump or swelling under her skin, (cyst-like), at the spot where the injection was given. Is there cause to be concerned? Besides this, she has had this non-stop fever for 4 days now

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jwd said on 12 October 2013

I woud be very interested to know if any adverse reactions occurred after last MMR immunization blitz.

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MsHaggerwood said on 18 May 2013

People will never trust the MMR and DPT vaccines again, easier just to go back to single jabs. Some people will never fall for the propaganda, as they know how to recognize it.

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Mel188 said on 11 May 2013

My child's mmr booster appointment, which i booked in april, has been cancelled by the practice nurse. I have been told my child age 9 cannot have the booster until October. This is due to the government initiative 'catch up' scheme!!! This is leaving under 10's at risk. I have contacted nhs primary care trust and all agencies are giving me conflicting answers. I had all first jabs done separately. I have been told these were ineffective despite having them done by a reputable uk dr! I was also told by the practice nurse that I have put my child at risk! I am disgusted by the way me and my child have been treated!

Has anyone else had this treatment ?
I am on the verge of going to the press!

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Tarian said on 02 May 2013

Note the banner at the top of this page - "NHS Choices".
Ironic or what !

Any measles epidemic is a direct result of removing "choice" over single vaccines. The NHS should hang its head in shame at such dissembling.

It doesn't matter whether the original criticism of MMR was exaggerated - the shear arrogance to tell parents what they can or can't do was breath-taking.

And to maintain the charge that there is chance of any side-effect from a triple vaccine is arrogant nonsense.
There are many, many conditions which only a tiny number of people ever get - and it is entirely plausible that they get those conditions because of the co-incidence of a combination of factors.
How can anyone be so certain that filling small bodies with three vaccines at once never triggers a reaction?

In short - there is an outbreak of measles, not mumps or rubella - so issue the measles vaccine.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 26 April 2013

Dear velvet lady,

You do not need MMR because you've almost certainly been exposed to the measles virus before now and are already immune.

Best wishes,

Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

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paod said on 25 April 2013

Garrffley is so wrong - there have been reports from all over the world disproving the Wakefield paper - a doctor struck off by the GMC. It just is not true that the Government/NHS/doctors have been silent on this issue. I blame the press for engendering the uncertainty.

Inadequate protection against measles - doesn't this include children vaccinated pre-MMR with single dose measles vaccine - now adults now in their 40s?
And what about the failure of parents to ensure their children are protected against rubella - a devastating illness in pregnant mums - are not mums still screened for immunity pre-natally?

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reaverman said on 25 April 2013

Garfffey should hang their head in shame, for post such terribly misleading information.

Fact: There is no credible link between Autism and MMR

Fact: Dr Andrew Wakefield not only has been discredited for his work, there is proof that he was involved with his own set of trials for single jab vaccinations, and he was also financially benefiting from the research.

We are now facing fallout from such reckless behaviour, by evident of the outbreaks in Wales. This is not just affecting untreated children, but also other immunised people at risk, since the virus can get a foothold.

Parents, please immunise your children.

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velvet lady said on 24 April 2013

I am wondering if I should get a vaccination? I am 70 yrs old and have never had Measles or the MMR jab, am I less likely to contract Measles because I am older or should I get a vaccination?

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Rich96 said on 19 April 2013

Garffey clearly doesn't know what Autism is or what it is like, I would much rather be like I am than blind or dead from measles. The MMR vaccine doesn't cause Autism, there are people with Autism who haven't had the vaccine and there are millions of people who don't have Autism that have had the vaccine.
Get the jabs and get your children to get the jabs.

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Garffey said on 19 April 2013

Still the only option is single jabs...If you have a boy.

I wouldn't believe all whats written above...

The government (hang your head in shame) has still to yet fully disprove the link with autism....And the silence is deafening.
While death from measles is sad...a lifetime of Autism can be far worse.
And plans to give a 5 in 1 jab ....well enough said.

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