Measles outbreaks: need-to-know facts about vaccination

baby vaccinationIt's unusual to see people in the UK queueing to receive vaccinations, but it happened in South Wales following an outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus.

We've got answers, gleaned from NHS Choices, to some common questions here, but if you're worried about your child or teenager catching measles, or have anxieties about the vaccine, then do talk to your GP.

For general advice, see our Measles symptoms and information page.


Why are people offered the MMR jab once an outbreak has already happened?
The MMR vaccine can protect people who've come into contact with the condition in the previous three days. This is because measles antibodies develop more quickly following vaccination than they do after a natural infection.

Can people who have recently had the vaccine infect other people?

Can you have the MMR jab at any age?

Can my child have the MMR if they've already had single vaccines?
Yes. But if your child has had a single vaccine, they will have to wait at least four weeks until they can have the full MMR vaccination.

My children didn't have their MMR jabs when they were babies and now they're teenagers. Do they still need to be vaccinated?
Anyone who hasn't had the MMR vaccine is at risk of catching measles, mumps or rubella and transmitting the diseases to other people. Teenagers and young adults are at higher risk of mumps, which can have serious complications.

MMR vaccination schedule

Babies are given the first vaccine as part of their vaccination schedule around their first birthday.

Children are given an MMR booster between the ages of three and five (ie before they start school). This is because up to one in 10 children are not fully immune after their first dose of MMR.

• The vaccine is given as a single injection into the thigh or arm muscle.

School leavers are generally offered a booster MMR jab to ensure they've received both doses.

I can't remember if my teenager has had her second MMR jab? What do I do?
Speak to your GP, who will have a record of your child's vaccinations and can arrange for your teen to have an MMR booster jab, if necessary.

My baby was born prematurely. Should I delay their MMR vaccination?
NHS advice is that babies should receive their first dose of MMR vaccine around 12 to months, irrespective of whether they were premature.

Does MMR give you lifelong immunity?
The NHS says people remain immune against measles for at least 30 years , immune against rubella for 23 years and immune against mumps for 19 years.

I'm planning to get pregnant. Should I have the MMR jab?
You may need the MMR jab if you have low levels of rubella antibodies or haven't had an MMR jab. Your GP can test your rubella immunity with a simple blood test and will have records of whether or not you've had the MMR jab. If pregnant women catch measles, they can pass the virus on to their unborn baby and it can cause health problems, premature labour and low birthweight.

I'm pregnant. Can I have the MMR jab?
No, the vaccine can't be given during pregnancy.

How does the MMR vaccine work?
MMR contains a weakened version of the three viruses. These trigger the body's immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella. When someone who has had the MMR comes into contact with one of the diseases, the immune system recognises it and produces antibodies to fight it.

What happens if you have the MMR jab but you're already immune to the diseases?
The NHS says there are no known negative effects from having the MMR jab if you're already immune. If you're in doubt about whether you've been immunised, it says there's no harm in having a booster jab.

My baby is aged under one and may have been exposed to measles. What should I do?
See your GP. If your baby is over six months, they may be given an MMR jab. If they're younger than six months, they may be given antibodies.

My child has measles. How long should they stay off school?
The NHS says for at least five days after the measles rash has appeared.

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Last updated: 11-Sep-2013 at 10:30 AM