MMR for non-immune adults
The MMR vaccine can also be given on the NHS to adults who may need it.
- people born between 1970 and 1979, who may have only been vaccinated against measles
- people born from 1980 to 1990, who may not be protected against mumps
Check with your GP if you're not sure whether you have had the MMR vaccine.
If in doubt, go ahead and have it. Even if you have had it before, it will not harm you to have a second, or even third, course of the vaccination.
Read more about when the MMR vaccine is needed.
Read the NHS leaflet Measles: not just a kids' problem (PDF, 868kb).
How the MMR vaccine works
The MMR vaccine contains weakened versions of live measles, mumps and rubella viruses.
The vaccine works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella.
If you or your child then comes into contact with one of the diseases, 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.
The MMR vaccine given in the UK is known under the brand names Priorix, or M-M-RVAXPRO.
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Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?
There's been some controversy about whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism following a 1998 study by Dr Andrew Wakefield.
In his paper published in The Lancet, Dr Wakefield claimed there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease.
But Andrew Wakefield's work has since been completely discredited and he has been struck off as a doctor in the UK.
Subsequent studies in the last 9 years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease.
Single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines
Single vaccines are not available on the NHS in the UK because there's a risk that fewer children would receive all the necessary injections, increasing the levels of measles, mumps and rubella in the country.
The delay in having 6 separate injections would also put more children at risk of developing the conditions, as well as increasing the amount of work and inconvenience for parents and those administering the vaccines.
Side effects of the MMR vaccine
As there are 3 separate vaccines within a single injection, different side effects can occur at different times.
The side effects of the MMR vaccine are usually mild. It's important to remember that they're milder than the potential complications of measles, mumps and rubella.
Side effects include:
- developing a mild form of measles that lasts for 2 to 3 days (this is not infectious)
- developing a mild form of mumps that lasts for a day or two (this is not infectious)
In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots may appear a few weeks after the injection.
See your GP if you notice this kind of rash, or if you have any concerns about your child's symptoms after having the MMR jab.
This NHS leaflet tells you about the common vaccination reactions in babies and young children up to the age of 5 years.
Read the answers to other common questions about the MMR vaccine.