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.