Measles immunisation

Measles immunisation

Measles is a serious disease and very easy to catch. Make sure your kids are immunised against measles.

Key points to remember about measles immunisation

A boy's shoulder and back showing measles rash

For information about the disease, see the measles page on this website.

  • measles can be a serious disease
  • it's caused by a virus
  • measles is very easy to catch
  • immunisation is the only way to prevent measles

How do you prevent measles?

Immunisation given on time is the only way to prevent measles.

If you're unsure about whether your child has had MMR immunisation, or you can't find your records, you can check with your Well Child Tamariki Ora provider or Well Child book, or contact your family doctor.

Combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) immunisation is the only vaccine available to prevent measles in New Zealand.

How effective is immunisation against measles?

Approximately 90 to 95 in 100 people who receive one dose of MMR are protected. Those who do not develop immunity after the first MMR dose, almost always do so after the second dose. 2 doses offers the best protection.

Who should have MMR immunisation?

Babies and children

Children usually have 2 doses of MMR - one dose at 15 months of age and a second at 4 years of age.

Babies and children who have not had their MMR immunisation are at greatest risk of the disease. Babies aged 6-11 months can have their MMR immunisation early if there is a high risk of exposure to measles (for example, travel to countries with serious outbreaks). These babies will still need MMR at 15 months and 4 years of age because MMR immunisation tends not to work as well in young babies.

Teenagers and young adults

Many teenagers and young adults have missed one or both doses of MMR and may be unaware that they are not protected against measles. Check whether you're up to date with your MMR immunisation with your family doctor. 

Adults

Some adults should also have MMR:

  • those born after 1969 (when measles immunisation was introduced to New Zealand) who lack evidence of immunity to measles - adults born before 1969 are highly likely to have been exposed to measles
  • those travelling to areas where measles is common (endemic) who do not have immunity

People with egg allergy

People with an allergy to egg CAN have MMR.

Who should not have the immunisation?

The following people should not have MMR immunisation:

  • pregnant women
  • anyone who has an illness, or is taking medicines, which affect their immune system 
  • babies under 12 months of age (except during a measles outbreak)
  • anyone who has experienced a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the MMR vaccine
  • anyone who has received another live vaccine, including chickenpox or BCG, within the previous month

Delay MMR if your child has a sudden severe illness with high fever (over 38 degrees Celsius). The presence of a minor infection is not a reason to delay immunisation.

If you find out you are pregnant after having MMR immunisation, talk to your family doctor. But, research has found no injury to the unborn child when women have had MMR immunisation without realising they were pregnant. 

Who should seek more advice before having MMR?

  • anyone who has received human immunoglobulin or other blood product within the previous 11 months
  • anyone who is HIV-positive
  • anyone who is unsure if they have an immune deficiency or taking medicine to suppress their immune system
  • anyone who developed low platelets (idiopathic thrombocytopenia or ITP) after a previous dose of MMR

How safe is MMR?

The risk of MMR causing serious harm is extremely rare. MMR is considerably safer than getting measles. See Measles complications vs side effects of MMR immunisation.

Can the MMR vaccine cause measles?

No.

It can cause a very mild, non-infectious rash about 5 to 12 days after immunisation.

Can MMR cause autism?

No.

Extensive research shows there is no evidence that MMR causes autism, Crohn's disease or ADHD.

For more information, see the following:

Does MMR contain thiomersal (or mercury)?

No.

Immunisation Advisory Centre. University of Auckland. http://www.immune.org.nz/diseases/measles [Accessed 1/04/2019]

Ministry of Health Immunisation Handbook 2017 (measles chapter). Wellington: Ministry of Health. https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/immshandbook-11-measles-mar18-v2.pdf [Accessed 1/04/2019]

This page last reviewed 01 April 2019.
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