MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine is given in 2 doses and helps protect against measles, mumps and rubella. Find out more about the vaccine, and when and where to get it.

Why should someone have the MMR vaccination?

The MMR vaccine helps to protect people against measles, mumps and rubella. It’s sometimes also offered to adults who missed their childhood immunisations.

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious diseases. They can cause serious medical complications.

A high number of people in Scotland have had the MMR vaccine. This means there’s been a big reduction in the number of people catching these diseases.

Learn more about measles

Learn more about mumps

Learn more about rubella

Sarah’s story: A life changed by measles

Sarah wasn’t vaccinated against measles as a child because she had eczema (medical advice on this has since changed). She fell seriously ill with measles when she was 5 and was left with lasting disabilities including deafness, partial sight and learning difficulties.

Her mother Audrey talks about the impact this has had on Sarah and the whole family.

Who is eligible for the MMR vaccine?

All babies and children in Scotland are eligible for the MMR vaccine.

They’ll be offered the MMR vaccine in 2 doses:

  • the first between 12 and 13 months
  • the second at 3 years 4 months

Although normally given at these times, if it’s missed, it can be given at any age.

Some young people and adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine may also be eligible, like those who are a planning a pregnancy. If you didn’t have 2 doses of the MMR vaccine as a child, you can contact your local NHS immunisation team to discuss your eligibility.

Find out how to contact your local NHS immunisation team

Can I have the MMR vaccine if I’m pregnant?

As a precaution, the MMR vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.

You should also avoid becoming pregnant for 1 month after having the MMR vaccine. Let your GP or midwife know if you had the MMR vaccine while you were pregnant. Evidence suggests there will be no harm to your baby, but it’s better to let them know.

If you’re unsure if you’ve had 2 doses of the MMR vacine

Phone your GP surgery to check you’ve had both doses if you:

  • are unsure if you’ve had both doses
  • are about to start college or university
  • are going to travel abroad
  • are planning a pregnancy
  • are a frontline health or social care worker
  • were born between 1970 and 1979, as you may have only been vaccinated against measles
  • were born between 1980 and 1990, as you may not be protected against mumps

Your GP will check your records and be able to advise if it’s clinically appropriate for you to receive an MMR vaccine.

To arrange a vaccine, contact your local NHS immunisation team.

What vaccine will be offered?

The MMRVAXPRO and Priorix vaccines are routinely used in Scotland.

MMRVAXPRO and Priorix are combined MMR vaccines. This means the person is protected from measles, mumps and rubella as quickly and safely as possible.

To immunise against each of the 3 diseases separately would mean 6 injections over a longer period of time. The result would be:

  • more risk of catching a disease
  • more risk of missing a dose completely
  • more risk of pain where the injections are given
  • more distress for the child

Individual vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella are not available in the Scottish immunisation programme.

Are there any reasons someone shouldn’t have the MMR vaccine?

There are some serious medical conditions that mean not everyone can have the MMR vaccine. The vaccination shouldn’t be given if the person has had a severe reaction to MMR before, or they:

  • have significant immunosuppression
  • have severe allergies to neomycin or kanamycin (types of antibiotic)
  • are pregnant

Women should also avoid becoming pregnant for 1 month after having the MMR vaccine.

In some cases having the MMR vaccine should be put off until a later date. It should be delayed if the person having the vaccine has a very high fever, or has had:

  • another live vaccine (including BCG) in the last 4 weeks
  • an injection of immunoglobulin (antibodies) in the last 3 months

The MMR vaccine will be offered even if the person has:

  • asthma, eczema, hay fever, or most food intolerances
  • a minor illness without a fever, like a cold
  • been given antibiotics
  • been using a cream or inhaler that contains steroids
  • minor infections without fever
  • an egg allergy
Is there pork gelatine in the MMR vaccine?

Pork gelatine is an ingredient in one of the MMR vaccines used in Scotland.

Gelatine is an essential ingredient in many medicines, including some vaccines. If you’re concerned, please speak to a health professional before attending your immunisation appointment. There are alternative MMR vaccines available that don’t contain pork gelatine.

Many faith groups have approved the use of vaccines that contain gelatine. However, it’s an individual choice whether or not to receive this vaccine. NHS Scotland recognises that there’ll be different views held within different communities.

What are the ingredients of the MMR vaccine?

You can view the vaccine ingredients in the patient information leaflets:

The person giving you the vaccination will be able to confirm which vaccine is being given.

If you’ve questions about getting the vaccine or its ingredients, speak to a health professional or your local NHS immunisation team.

Is the MMR vaccine a live vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine. This means it contains a weakened form of the viruses that cause measles, mumps and rubella.

The vaccine cannot cause measles, mumps or rubella.

How many doses of the vaccine are needed?

2 doses of the MMR vaccine are needed.

The second dose of the MMR vaccine gives the best level of protection to the most number of people.

After the first dose, between 5% and 10% of children aren’t protected against each of the diseases. This is because their immune system hasn’t responded to the first dose. After 2 doses of MMR, less than 1% of children are left unprotected against measles.

To give everyone the best protection, at least 95% of the population needs to be immunised against the viruses. Scotland can only reach this number if a second dose is given to every eligible child.

What if I didn’t have 2 doses as a child?

As part of the routine immunisations offered at secondary school, NHS Scotland will check if you’ve had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. If you haven’t had 2 doses, you’ll be offered the MMR vaccine at secondary school.

You’ll need to wait at least 4 weeks between each dose of the vaccine.

You should contact your local NHS immunisation team if you:

  • didn’t have both doses as a child
  • aren’t in mainstream education

The NHS immunisation team will arrange your free MMR immunisation appointment.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

Over 500 million doses of MMR have been used in over 90 countries around the world since the early 1970s.

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness. The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for use in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.

Read more about how we know the vaccine is safe

How do I get the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is offered to all children in Scotland. You’ll receive an invite from your local NHS immunisation team.

Children will be offered the MMR vaccine in 2 doses:

  • the first between 12 and 13 months
  • the second at 3 years 4 months

Although normally given at these times, if it’s missed, it can be given at any age.

As part of the routine immunisations offered at secondary school, NHS Scotland will check if young people have had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. If they haven’t had 2 doses, they’ll be offered the MMR vaccine at secondary school.

Adults who think they’re eligible for the MMR vaccine can also contact their local NHS immunisation team to discuss getting their MMR vaccine.

Find out how to contact your NHS immunisation team regarding your vaccination appointment

What are the side effects of this vaccine?

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Vaccines protect against the risk of very serious infections and should not be delayed.

Side effects of the MMR vaccine may be:

  • a mild rash (this rash isn’t infectious)
  • a fever that develops a week or 2 after the vaccine and lasts 1 to 3 days
  • swollen lymph glands that develop 2 to 3 weeks later
  • sore or stiff joints that can last from a couple of days to a few weeks

These side effects will pass quickly.

The MMR vaccine very rarely causes serious side effects, and the numbers are small compared to the side effects caused by the diseases.

Where can I report side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

What if my child feels unwell after vaccination?

Fever can be expected after any vaccination. Fevers are usually mild, so you only need to give a dose of infant paracetamol if the child is uncomfortable. Read the instructions on the bottle very carefully.

Remember, never give medicines that contain aspirin to children under 16.

Information about treating fever in children

In infants who do develop a fever after vaccination, the fever tends to peak around 6 hours after vaccination. It’s nearly always gone completely within 2 days.

Phone 999 immediately if:

  • your child is having a fit

If you think your child might be seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice

Phone your GP immediately if:

  • your child has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • your child still has a fever 48 hours after vaccination
  • if you’re concerned about your child’s health

If your GP is closed, you can contact NHS 24 on 111.

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organisation, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Information in other languages and formats

Information leaflets from Public Health Scotland are available in

  • British Sign Language (BSL), Audio, Easy Read, and Large Print formats
  • English and other languages

You can request another format or language (for example Braille) by emailing