Overview

The MMR vaccine helps protect your baby against measles, mumps and rubella.

Strict infection prevention and control measures are in place during your appointment. Please follow the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance when attending your appointment.

If you, or your child, have symptoms of coronavirus, or have been in contact with someone who does, call the number on your invitation to rearrange your appointment.

What are measles, mumps and rubella?

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious diseases that can leave children suffering serious medical complications. However, the high number of people getting the MMR vaccine in Scotland 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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2AWjToUJs8)

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.

When will my child get the MMR vaccine?

Your child will have 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.

Young people who haven’t had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine as a child should contact their GP about getting their free MMR vaccine. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella – all of which can be very serious diseases and are highly infectious.

Non-urgent advice: Phone your GP practice:

  • if you're unsure if you've had 2 doses of MMR

They can check your records and arrange for you to catch up if needed.

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. It's best to 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.

The vaccine

The MMR vaccine's made from weakened forms of the natural viruses. The viruses in the vaccine have been changed so in most cases they'll cause none or only very mild symptoms.

The vaccine makes your child’s immune system respond to and ‘remember’ the viruses. This means that if your child's infected with the real viruses their immune system will quickly recognise them and act to stop the infection.

Immunisation can also provide 'population protection'.

Which vaccines are used?

The MMRVAXPRO and Priorix vaccines are routinely used in Scotland.

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

What are the benefits of a combined vaccine?

The combined MMR vaccine means your child 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 your child

MMR has been responsible for a huge reduction in measles, mumps and rubella in children since it was introduced in the UK in 1988.

Single vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella aren't available in the UK immunisation programme.

What if my child has a medical condition or allergy?

There are some serious medical conditions that mean your child shouldn't have the MMR vaccine.

Your child shouldn't have MMR if they've had a severe reaction to MMR before, or have:

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

In some cases having the MMR vaccine should be put off until a later date. Your child should wait to have MMR if they have a very high fever, or if they had:

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

Your child should have the MMR vaccine even if they have:

  • 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

What's the second dose?

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

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

To give the public the best protection, at least 95% of the population needs to be immunised against the viruses. Because of the children who don't respond to the first dose and those who don't attend for immunisation, this number can only be achieved with a second dose being given to every child.

Almost all children who didn't respond to the first dose will be protected against measles, mumps and rubella with a second dose.

How effective is the MMR vaccine?

The World Health Organization states that MMR is a highly effective vaccine with an outstanding safety record.

In 1988 (the year before the MMR vaccine was introduced), 86,000 children in the UK caught measles, and 16 died. Since 1992, there have been 3 deaths in the UK from measles.

There are no countries that recommend vaccination with the 3 separate vaccines.

When's my baby going to be immunised?

The MMR vaccine is offered to a child between 12 and 13 months of age, after the immunity a baby gets from their mother fades.

The vaccine is injected into the muscle of your baby's thigh or upper arm. The appointment will take place at your GP practice or health centre.

A second dose is given at the same time as other routine childhood immunisations, when children are aged from 3 years and 4 months.

Although normally given at these times, if the MMR vaccine's missed it can be given at any age.

How do we know the vaccine's 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 by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used 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 by the MHRA.

What if I haven't had 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.

There's a minimum interval of 4 weeks between each dose of the vaccine.

Young people not in secondary school should contact their GP practice to book their free MMR immunisation appointment.

Non-urgent advice: 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
Is there pork gelatine in the MMR vaccine?

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

Gelatine is an essential ingredient in many medicines, including some vaccines. If you've any concerns about this, please speak to your GP, practice nurse, or health visitor before you attend your immunisation appointment. There are alternative MMR vaccines available that don't contain pork gelatine.

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

Improving how vaccines are offered in Scotland

To improve how vaccinations are offered to you or your child, you may notice:

  • you're invited to a new location to receive your immunisations instead of your GP practice
  • the healthcare professional giving your immunisations changes

You'll still receive clear information about the location, date, and time of your appointment.

After the vaccine

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

Side effects

Side effects of MMR 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 in a short time.

MMR very rarely causes serious side effects, and the numbers are small compared to the side effects caused by the diseases. For example, a child with measles has a one in a thousand chance of developing meningitis. In comparison, a child who has had the first dose of the MMR vaccine has less than a one in a million chance of developing meningitis.

If you're worried about your child, trust your instincts. Speak to your GP or phone 111.

Infant paracetamol

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

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

Fever is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine vaccines at 8 and 16 weeks. Infant paracetamol should be given to babies after each of these immunisation appointments.

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

Ibuprofen can be used to treat a fever and other post-vaccination reactions. Giving ibuprofen at the time of vaccination to prevent a fever is not effective.

Public Health Scotland’s booklet What to expect after immunisations: Babies and children up to 5 years has more information.

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

Information about treating fever in children

If an infant still has a fever 48 hours after vaccination or if parents are concerned about their infant’s health at any time, they should seek advice from their GP, or NHS 24 on 111.

The diseases vaccines protect against are very serious, so vaccination should not be delayed because of concerns about post-vaccination fever.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if, at any time, your child:

  • has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • has a fit

If your GP practice is closed, phone 111. If you're worried about your child, trust your instincts.

Further information

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the MMR vaccine, phone:

Where can I report suspected 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 0808 100 3352 (available Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 2.00pm)

Other formats

Public Health Scotland has produced the following leaflets explaining routine childhood immunisations in Scotland including the MMR vaccine, why it's offered, and when it's given.

The leaflets are also available in Easy Read English and other languages.

Protecting your child against serious diseases leaflet
What to expect after immunisations in babies and young children leaflet

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 Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Last updated:
19 April 2022

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