Healthy living

Measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine

The MMR vaccine offers 99 per cent protection against measles, mumps and rubella. 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.

Measles is the most infectious of all vaccine-preventable diseases and can have serious complications.

Who should have the MMR vaccine?

Children

Children are offered the MMR vaccine at 12 and 18 months of age through the National Immunisation Program. The second dose at 18 months also includes the varicella vaccine to protect against chickenpox and so it is known as the MMRV vaccine. See the childhood immunisation schedule.

According to the Australian Immunisation Handbook, 2 doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for everyone who does not have immunity against measles, mumps or rubella.

It is important that your child receives 2 doses of the MMR vaccine to be protected. It's never too late; older children are still eligible for the free vaccine if they haven't received it yet.

See your GP or immunisation provider if your child hasn't received their 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. Find out how to check your child's immunisation records.

Adults

The adult measles vaccination program is free for everyone born after 1965. (Most people born before 1966 are usually immune to measles because they had the disease as a child.)

You need two doses of the MMR vaccine (at least 1 month apart) for full protection against measles. Most people born after 1965 have already had one dose as a child but need a second dose.

You can also check your immunisation record to find out if you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine.

If you're not sure whether 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.

Note: While the vaccine is free, there may be a consultation fee.

Travelling overseas?

It is especially important to make sure you are fully vaccinated against measles before travelling overseas.

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening illness which is common in many countries outside of Australia where there are currently a number of outbreaks.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease and you need to have 2 doses of the measles vaccine to be protected. Recent measles cases in WA were also traced back to people who travelled overseas and had only received one dose of the measles vaccine.

Planning to get pregnant?

Measles can have serious complications, especially for pregnant women and their babies, such as miscarriage, early labour and stillbirth.

You can't have the measles vaccine during pregnancy – so to protect yourself and your baby, it's important to get vaccinated against measles at least 4 weeks before trying to get pregnant.

If you’re not sure if you've had two doses of the MMR vaccine, check your immunisation record or speak to your doctor.

Who should not have the MMR vaccine?

Before being vaccinated, you must say if you:

  • aren't feeling well (for example you have a fever)
  • have any severe allergies (such as antibiotics, latex, gelatine)
  • are pregnant or plan to get pregnant soon (refer to 'Pregnant women and the MMR vaccine' section below)
  • 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/AIDS or cancer) or having treatment that lowers immunity.

Pregnant women and the MMR vaccine

You should wait at least 4 weeks after having a MMR vaccine before trying to get pregnant to prevent any possible harm to your baby.

If you discover you are pregnant after having a MMR vaccine, 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 a MMR vaccine 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 is given when a child is 12 months.

This is followed up by an MMRV vaccination (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella), 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 a minimum of 4 weeks apart.

How do I report an adverse event?

The Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS) system 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 can I get vaccinated?

The MMR vaccine is available in metropolitan and country WA from immunisation providers including GPs, immunisation providers, travel clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services and community health immunisation clinics.

For further information contact your immunisation provider.

Find out where you can get immunised.

Where to get help


Last reviewed: 21-03-2019
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.

Photo of a women in her 30s/40s with a serious expression. Text: Have you been fully vaccinated against measles?