MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine

The MMR vaccine is safe and effective. It’s a combined vaccine which protects against three serious illnesses:

These three diseases are highly infectious and can easily spread between unvaccinated people.


Measles is caused by a virus that can spread by coughs and sneezes. It’s one of the most infectious diseases in the world, just spending 15 minutes or more in direct contact with someone infected with measles is enough to catch the infection. Symptoms of measles include:

  • high fever
  • sore, red, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • aching and feeling generally unwell
  • a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms.

Complications of measles are more likely to occur in certain groups including people with weakened immune systems, babies under one year old and pregnant women. Complications can include chest and ear infections, fits, diarrhoea, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and brain damage. Those who develop complications may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.


Mumps is a viral illness that is spread by coughs and sneezes or close contact with someone who has the infection. Symptoms of mumps usually last around 2 weeks and can include headache and fever. The most common symptom is swelling of the glands at the side of the face which can give you the appearance of having a ‘hamster face’ and can cause pain and difficulty swallowing.

Complications of mumps can include inflammation of the ovaries or testicles, and in rarer cases, the pancreas. Mumps can also cause viral meningitis and encephalitis (infection of the brain). Although permanent hearing loss after mumps is rare, around one in 20 people infected may have temporary hearing loss.

There is currently no medication to cure mumps, so treatment is focused on relieving symptoms. Most cases of mumps now occur in young adults who haven’t had 2 doses of MMR vaccine.


Rubella is a viral illness and is also known as German measles. It’s spread by coughs and sneezes and is quite rare in the UK thanks to the success of the MMR vaccine. For most people, it’s usually a mild illness that gets better in 7 to 10 days without treatment. However, if pregnant women get rubella, it can be very serious for their unborn baby.

Symptoms of rubella include a rash, cold-like symptoms, and aching joints.

The MMR Vaccine

Getting vaccinated is important as these three conditions can lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy. Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella and give long lasting protection.

The MMR vaccine is given to babies and young children as part of the NHS vaccination schedule at:

  • 1 year of age (MMR 1st dose)
  • 3 years and 4 months of age (MMR 2nd dose)

To see if your child is up to date with their MMR vaccines, check your child’s personal child health record (PCHR), known as the red book, or contact your GP practice.  

Anyone who has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine should ask their GP surgery for a vaccination appointment. It is never too late to catch up.