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The MMR for you and your baby

Since vaccinations were introduced in the UK, diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are now very rare or gone completely. Other diseases like measles and diphtheria had been reduced by up to 99.9% since vaccines were introduced. If people stop being vaccinated against these diseases, they can spread again very quickly.

Cases of measles and mumps are being seen more commonly again now that fewer people are taking up the MMR vaccine, which is worrying because measles can kill.

Use the links below to go to a specific section.

Information about the MMR vaccine, what it protects against and why it’s so important.

Protecting yourself and your baby from measles, mumps and rubella.


What is the MMR?

MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three illnesses, measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) in a single injection.

The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses.

The first at around one year of age and the second dose is given at around three years and four months of age, before your child starts school.

It’s never too late to have your MMR vaccine, even as an adult. You can check if you and your partner are vaccinated at your GP surgery.

What does the MMR protect against?

The MMR protects against measlesmumps and rubella. They are highly infectious conditions that can have serious, life altering and potentially fatal complications, including meningitisswelling of the brain and hearing loss.

How does the MMR work?

The MMR vaccine contains weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses. The vaccine triggers the body’s immune system to make antibodies that fight back against measles, mumps and rubella. If you or your child then comes into contact with one of the diseases in future, the immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it. It’s not possible for people who have recently had the MMR vaccine to infect other people.

Does the MMR cause autism?

There have been many studies into the suggested link between the MMR and autism. They have all found no link between autism and MMR. The Oxford University Vaccine Knowledge Project website has a list of MMR studies and their findings.

Can the MMR be given as three separate injections?

The MMR is given as a single injection protecting against measles mumps and rubella.  The NHS does not recommend or offer separate  vaccines as there’s no evidence to say that they are safer than the MMR.

Also, having the vaccines separately could put your child at risk of catching one of the diseases in the time between doses of each separate vaccine.

Every independent expert group around the world, including the World Health Organization, supports the use of MMR, and none support the use of single vaccines.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the MMR vaccination?

There are some people who shouldn’t have the MMR vaccine or should check with a doctor first. For example, check if any of the following applies to you.

  • You’re pregnant – to be cautious, it’s advised that you don’t have the vaccine when pregnant.
  • You have a severely weakened immune system – for instance, if you take immunosuppressant medicines.
  • You’ve had a severe allergic reaction to gelatine (a substance used in some vaccines) or an antibiotic called neomycin.
  • You’ve had a severe allergic reaction to an MMR vaccine before. In this case, you’ll need to be assessed by an allergy doctor first.

Does the MMR vaccine contain gelatine?

  • There are two types of the MMR vaccine, one with gelatine and one without. If you’re vegetarian or vegan speak to your GP or practice nurse about the options available to you.
  • The MMR vaccine is safe for children with a severe egg allergy, discuss this with your practice nurse or GP.

Protecting yourself and your baby from measles, mumps and rubella

Vaccination is the most important thing you can do as a parent to protect your child against ill health.

Planning for pregnancy

If you’re planning for pregnancy, it’s especially important to make sure you have been vaccinated against MMR before getting pregnant. This is to protect yourself against measles, mumps and rubella. Catching rubella while pregnant can be very serious for your unborn baby and can cause a condition called Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), which can lead to miscarriage and birth defects.

You should avoid becoming pregnant for one month after having the MMR vaccine.

Why do I need the MMR vaccination after pregnancy?

If you’re already pregnant and don’t have any record of being vaccinated, you can get it soon after your baby is born. It’s not recommended that you have the MMR vaccine when you’re pregnant.

You will be offered a routine screening for rubella during pregnancy (link to national routine screening leaflet, look on staffnet or SOG)

All three diseases can be very serious, especially for people with a weakened immune system (those who can’t fight infection very well) or women who are pregnant.

By vaccinating yourself against these serious diseases, you will also reduce the risk of passing infections to others, including your new baby, who will not receive their MMR vaccine until after their first birthday.

The MMR vaccine for adults is the same as that for children. Young children have the vaccination as a single injection into their thigh., older children and adults have it in their upper arm.

Having the MMR vaccine will protect you in any future pregnancies. You will need to have two doses for full protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

It’s never too late to have your MMR vaccine

If you haven’t been vaccinated before, you will need two doses of the MMR. Ask your practice nurse to give you the first vaccine at your ‘6 week check’ at the surgery – or before. You will need a second dose one month later. Check guidance on this with imms team

You will need to be using a reliable form of contraception as you need to avoid becoming pregnant for one month after the vaccinations.

Is it too late to have the MMR now my child is older?

If you or your child missed out on the MMR vaccination as a baby, this means you are not immune to the disease. However, you can have the MMR free of charge on the NHS at any time. The vaccine is offered to new mums in the early days following delivery. It’s really important that you have had your MMR vaccine to protect your child up until they can have the vaccine at the age of one, the antibodies can pass through breastmilk to your baby

The MMR vaccine is given to adults as two doses, with the second dose given at least a month after the first.

Some adults may not have received full protection because of changes in the MMR vaccine. Anyone born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received a mumps vaccine, and anyone born between 1970 and 1979 may have only had a measles vaccine.

If you or your partner fall into one of these groups, ask your GP for the MMR vaccination.

Useful links

Page last reviewed: 24-10-2023

Next review due: 24-10-2026