Healthy living

Measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine

  • The MMR vaccine offers protection against 3 diseases – measles, mumps and rubella in a single combined injection.
  • This combination vaccine ensures you are fully protected and helps reduce the spread of these diseases.
  • MMR is the only vaccination available in Australia for measles – you cannot get a vaccine for measles only.
Who should have the vaccine?

From 1 July 2013 children will receive a MMR vaccine at 12 months of age followed by a MMRV vaccine at 18 months and that will conclude their MMR vaccine requirements.

Most people born before 1966 are immune to the diseases, especially measles and mumps, because they probably had the disease in childhood.

Many high school children and young adults have not been fully vaccinated (2 doses MMR – 1 month apart).

It is also important to make sure you are fully vaccinated to protect you from these infections especially before travelling abroad, as these and many other diseases are still common outside Australia. If you’re not sure if you are fully vaccinated, have the vaccine. An extra dose of MMR vaccine will not hurt you, and will make sure you are fully protected.

Who should not have the vaccine?

Before being vaccinated, you must say if you:

  • aren’t feeling well (for example you have the flu)
  • have any severe allergies (such as antibiotics, latex, gelatine)
  • are pregnant or plan to be pregnant in the next 2 months
  • have received another live vaccination in the last month
  • have received blood, blood products or immunoglobulin in the last 3 months
  • have a disease (for example HIV/AIDSor cancer) or having treatment that lowers immunity.

Pregnant women and MMR vaccine

To prevent any possible harm to your baby, you shouldn’t have an MMR vaccination if you are thinking of becoming pregnant. You should also wait 2 months after having MMR vaccination before becoming pregnant.

Should you discover you are pregnant after having MMR vaccination, discuss with your doctor. There are no known cases of the vaccine harming the developing baby, but doctors generally try not to give any live vaccines or medications during pregnancy. Having MMR vaccination in early pregnancy is not a reason to terminate a pregnancy (have an abortion).

What are the benefits?

The MMR vaccine is safe, effective and has few side effects. Before vaccination, about 100 Australian children died each year from measles. Today, deaths from measles are rare.

Similarly, there are very few cases of birth defects from rubella in Australia today. Measles and rubella cases are now more common in young adults, the group least likely to have been vaccinated or to have had the diseases.

What are the risks?

With MMR vaccination, some people get a few, temporary side effects such as fever with mild malaise and rash. These side effects are non-infectious and could last between 7 to 10 days.

There is also an increased risk for febrile seizures, mainly in children under 3. These are likely to occur 7 to 10 days after vaccination.

Few people are affected by the second dose.

Common side effects

  • low-grade fever
  • muscle aches
  • soreness, swelling and redness and a small lump appearing at the injection site.

These symptoms normally occur soon after you received the vaccine, last 1 to 2 days, and resolve without requiring special treatment.

The following reactions may occur 5 to 12 days after the vaccination:

  • high fever over 39 °C lasting 2 to 3 days
  • faint red rash (not infectious)
  • runny nose, cough and/or puffy eyes
  • swelling of salivary glands
  • drowsiness or tiredness.

Severe side effects

A severe reaction following the administration of MMR vaccine is very rare (less than 1 in 1 million doses administered).

How is the vaccine given?

One dose of the MMR vaccine given when a child is 1.

This is followed up by an MMRV vaccination when the child is 18 months old.

If a child is older than 18 months and never received the vaccine, it is recommended that they receive 2 MMR vaccines, with a minimum of 4 weeks apart.

How do I report an adverse event?

The Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS) system (external site) is the central reporting service in WA for any significant adverse events following immunisation.

If you have experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine:

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Phone healthdirect on 1800 022 222
  • Phone the Immunise Australia Hotline on 1800 671 811

Remember

  • The MMR vaccine offers 99 per cent protection against 3 diseases – measles, mumps and rubella.
  • It is safe, effective and has few side effects.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Where can I get my vaccine?