The risk of MMR immunisation causing serious harm is extremely rare. MMR is considerably safer than getting mumps. Check out a comparison of the effects of mumps with responses to MMR immunisation.
Mumps is very easy to catch. Immunisation given on time is the only way to prevent mumps.
Key points to remember about mumps immunisation
- mumps is caused by a virus
- it is very easy to catch
- immunisation is the only way to prevent mumps
How do you prevent mumps?
Immunisation is the only way to prevent mumps.
Immunising your child on time is the only way to prevent mumps.
Combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) immunisation is the only vaccine available to prevent mumps in New Zealand. No mumps-only vaccine is available in New Zealand.
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.
If you're still not sure, your child can have their the MMR vaccine anyway. It's safe to get 2 doses again.
How effective is immunisation against mumps?
You need 2 doses of MMR. 2 doses protects up to 90 in 100 people from mumps.
Usually, children have the first dose of MMR at 12 months because MMR immunisation does not work as well in infants under 12 months.
A small number of people who have had MMR immunisation will still catch mumps. But, they're less likely to get serious complications from the illness.
Who should have MMR immunisation?
Babies and children
Children usually have 2 doses of MMR - a first dose at 12 months of age and a second dose at 15 months of age.
Babies and children who have not had their MMR immunisation are at greatest risk of the disease. Babies aged 6 to 11 months can have their MMR immunisation early if there is a high risk of exposure to mumps (for example, during outbreaks). These babies will still need MMR at 12 and 15 months because MMR immunisation tends not to work as well in young babies.
Adults who lack evidence of immunity to mumps should also have MMR immunisation.
People with egg allergy
People with an allergy to egg CAN have MMR immunisation.
Who should not have MMR 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 mumps outbreak)
- anyone who has experienced a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of MMR
- 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 medication 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 mumps.
See Mumps complications vs side effects of MMR immunisation.
Can MMR cause autism?
Extensive research shows there is no evidence that MMR causes autism.
For more information, see MMR vaccine does not cause autism (PDF, 110KB) from the Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ. This is a list of more than 25 articles with conclusions showing there is no scientific evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism.
Does MMR contain thiomersal (or mercury)?
Quick answers to frequent MMR questions
See the Immunisation Advisory Centre's answers to a range of questions about the MMR vaccine (PDF, 210 KB).
This page last reviewed 04 July 2022.
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