MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine (2024)

What the MMR vaccine is for

The MMR vaccine protects against:

  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella (german measles)

These 3 infections spread easily between people and can lead to serious problems including meningitis, blindness and hearing loss.

If you're pregnant, getting measles can cause premature birth, miscarriage or still birth. And getting rubella can cause serious problems for your baby such as damage to their sight and hearing.

2 doses of the MMR vaccine gives you long-term protection.

Getting vaccinated also helps protect people who cannot be vaccinated, such as unborn babies, newborn babies and anyone with a weakened immune system.

Who should have the MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine is recommended for all babies and young children, but older children and adults can have it if they were not vaccinated when they were younger.

Babies and young children

Babies and young children are given 2 doses of the MMR vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination schedule.

They're given a dose at:

  • 1 year old
  • 3 years 4 months old

Babies between 6 and 12 months can have an extra dose of the MMR vaccine before this if they need it to protect them if:

  • they're travelling abroad to an area with a lot of measles
  • they've been close to someone with measles
  • there's an outbreak of measles

Older children and adults

The MMR vaccine can be given at any age.

Speak to a GP about getting vaccinated if you did not have it as a child, you only had 1 dose or you're not sure if you've been fully vaccinated.

It's especially important to make sure you're vaccinated if:

  • you're a child, teenager or young adult
  • you could become pregnant
  • you're travelling to, or living in, a country where there is a higher risk of getting measles, mumps or rubella
  • you're a healthcare worker
  • you were born between 1970 and 1990 (as you may not have been vaccinated against all 3 infections)

Your GP surgery should be able to tell you which vaccinations you've already had.

If you were born before 1970 and have not had measles, mumps or rubella (german measles) or their vaccines, you can ask your GP surgery for the MMR vaccine.

Can I have the MMR vaccine during Ramadan?

Many Muslim scholars say you can have the MMR vaccine when you're fasting for Ramadan. This is because it's injected into the muscle and does not give you food or water.

You can speak to your GP for advice on when to have your MMR vaccine.

Information:

Polio and MMR vaccinations in London

From May 2023, children aged 1 to 11 in London who are not up to date with their routine vaccinations are being offered polio and MMR vaccinations through GP surgeries, primary schools and community clinics.

Find out more about the London polio and MMR vaccinations

Who cannot have the MMR vaccine

Most people who need the MMR vaccine can have it.

But because it's a live vaccine, which means it contains a weakened version of measles, mumps and rubella, it's not suitable for everyone.

The MMR vaccine is not given if:

  • you're pregnant
  • you have a weakened immune system, either because of a health condition or because you are taking medicines that suppress the immune system
  • you've had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any ingredients in the vaccine, including gelatine or neomycin

Information:

Getting vaccinated if you're unwell

You can have the MMR vaccine if you're unwell but do not have a high temperature.

If you have a high temperature or feel very unwell, wait until you feel better before having the MMR vaccine.

MMR vaccine ingredients

There are 2 types of MMR vaccine in the UK. You can check the ingredients in the patient leaflets:

The MMR VaxPro vaccine contains a small amount of gelatine from pigs (porcine gelatine). Speak to the person vaccinating your child if you want your child to have the Priorix MMR vaccine instead.

Find out more about vaccines and porcine gelatine, including leaflets translated into Arabic, Bengali and Urdu (GOV.UK)

How to get the MMR vaccine

Your GP surgery will usually contact you about your child's MMR vaccinations. This will usually be by letter, text message, phone call or email.

Older children who missed being vaccinated when they were younger may also be able to get the MMR vaccine through their school.

If you need the MMR vaccine for your work, you should be able to get it through your employer's occupational health service.

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP surgery if:

  • you have not been contacted to get your child's MMR vaccine
  • your child has missed their MMR vaccine, or you're not sure if they've had both doses of the vaccine
  • you think you might need the MMR vaccine
  • your child has a temperature and is due to have the vaccine – they may need to wait until they're feeling better before having the vaccine
  • you need to change a vaccination appointment

Your GP surgery can book or rearrange an appointment.

Information:

Advice for parents

  • Booking your child's vaccination appointment
  • Vaccination tips for parents

How the MMR vaccine is given

The MMR vaccine is given as an injection into the upper arm or thigh. It's often given at the same time as other routine vaccinations.

You'll need 2 doses for full protection.

Young children have the 1st dose when they're 1 year old and the second when they're between 3 years 4 months and 5 years old.

If you have the vaccine when you're older, you'll have 2 doses at least 1 month apart.

Information:

Having the MMR vaccine at the same time as other vaccines

The MMR vaccine can be given at the same time as most other vaccines except for the yellow fever vaccine.

You will need to wait 4 weeks between having the MMR vaccine and the yellow fever vaccine.

The MMR vaccine can be given on the same day as the chickenpox vaccine, but if they are not given on the same day you will need to wait 4 weeks between the vaccines.

Side effects of the MMR vaccine

Like all medicines, the MMR vaccine can cause side effects, but not everyone will get them.

Common side effects are usually mild and only last 2 to 3 days, they include:

  • a raised, blotchy rash (similar to a measles rash), feeling unwell and a high temperature around 7 to 11 days after the vaccination
  • swollen glands around the cheeks, neck and jaw and aching in your joints (similar to a mild form of mumps) around 2 to 3 weeks after the vaccination

More serious side effects, such as a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) are rare. The person who vaccinates you will be trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

Information:

The MMR vaccine is not linked to autism

Research has shown there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

How well the MMR vaccine works

Protection starts within 2 weeks of having the MMR vaccine.

After 2 doses:

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

If you get mumps after being vaccinated, the symptoms will usually be much milder.

Information:

More about vaccine safety

Find out more about why vaccinations are important and the safest way to protect yourself

MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine (2024)
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