Measles mumps rubella and the mmr vaccine


Measles is caused by a very infectious virus. Nearly everyone who catches it will have a high fever, a rash and generally be unwell. If you catch measles you could end up spending about five days in bed and could be off school/college/uni for ten days or longer. It is not possible to tell who will be seriously affected by measles. The complications of measles affect one in every 15 kids. The complications include chest infections, fits, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and brain damage. In very serious cases, measles kills. In 1987 (the year before the MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK), 86,000 children caught measles and 16 died. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known. A cough or a sneeze can spread the measles virus over a wide area. Because it's so infectious, the chances are that growing up you will get measles if you’re not protected.



Mumps is caused by a virus which can lead to fever, headache, and painful, swollen glands in the face, neck and jaw. It can result in permanent deafness, viral meningitis (swelling of the lining of the brain) and encephalitis. Rarely, it causes painful swelling of the testicles in men and the ovaries in women.



Rubella (German measles) is a disease caused by a virus. In children it is usually mild and can go unnoticed. It causes a short-lived rash, swollen glands and a sore throat. Rubella is very serious for unborn babies. It can seriously damage their sight, hearing, heart and brain. Rubella infection in the first three months of pregnancy causes damage to the unborn baby in nine out of ten cases. This condition is called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). In many of the cases, pregnant women caught rubella from their own, or their friends, children Mumps and Rubella are spread in the same way as measles. They are about as infectious as flu.


What is MMR?

MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) is the combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. It is the safest protection against these diseases.


Facts about the MMR vaccine:

Some years ago, there were many stories in the media linking MMR with autism. These caused some parents to delay their child's MMR immunisation or not to have it at all resulting in outbreaks of measles. However, independent experts from around the world have found no credible scientific evidence for such a link and there is now a large amount of evidence showing that there is no link. Find out more here.

  • The MMR programme started in Britain in 1988. By this time, children in the United States had been having the MMR vaccine for over 15 years with no safety problems.
  • Worldwide, more than 500 million doses of the MMR vaccine have been given in over 100 countries.
  • The World Health Organization says about the MMR vaccine, 'its safety record is exemplary'.
  • In the year before the vaccine was introduced in the UK, 86,000 children caught measles and 16 died.
  • Because of the MMR vaccine, no child has died from acute measles in the UK since 1992.
  • Before the vaccine was introduced, mumps was the most common cause of viral meningitis in children.
  • Because of the MMR vaccine, we are now close to wiping out mumps in children.
  • Before the MMR vaccine was introduced, rubella continued to cause terrible damage to some unborn babies.
  • Because of the MMR vaccine, we are now close to wiping out rubella.
  • There has never been a programme of giving single vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella in the UK.


How and when is the vaccine given?

The MMR vaccine contains weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses. Because the viruses are weakened, people who have recently had the vaccine cannot infect other people. The vaccine is injected into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm.