You can be immune from measles by either:
- having been infected with measles before
- or by having two measles-containing vaccinations - called measles, mumps, rubella (MMR).
Nearly everyone born before 1966 would have had measles as a child, but those born in or after 1966 need to be vaccinated with two MMR vaccines to protect themselves and the community.
Find out more information about measles.
About the MMR vaccine
The Centre for Disease Control suggests you should avoid going into public areas if you believe you have measles symptoms. If you're going to a health centre you should call ahead to tell the practice that you might have measles.
Who should be vaccinated
Immunisation against measles is recommended and available free for:
- all children aged 12 months and 18 months - infants can be vaccinated against measles from nine months of age if travelling overseas, or when an outbreak happens, but will still need two more doses at 12 months and 18 months
- children at 18 months of age or older who have not previously had a second dose of MMR
- any adult born during or after 1966 who has not had two measles-containing vaccines.
How effective is MMR vaccine
Over 90% of people are protected with one dose of MMR vaccine. This increases to 99% if people have had two doses.
Is the MMR vaccine safe
The MMR vaccine has an excellent safety record and there is no increased risk from receiving the vaccine more than once.
The vaccine is made using a protein related to egg. Evidence shows that it is safe to give the MMR vaccine to people with egg allergies, even those who have a very severe reaction to eggs.
Reactions to MMR
Most side effects are minor, last a short time and do not lead to any long-term problems. Possible side effects of the MMR vaccine can include discomfort where the injection was given, fever, a rash that is not infectious, drowsiness and tiredness.
If side effects occur they usually come on seven to 10 days after immunisation and last two or three days.
More serious side effects are rare and can include severe allergic reactions.
Contact your immunisation provider if you or your child has a reaction to the vaccine, which you consider serious or unexpected.
Who should not have the MMR vaccine
Some people can't receive the MMR vaccine, including:
- pregnant women
- anyone with a weakened immune system, such as cancer patients receiving treatment
- anyone who has had an anaphylactic reaction to gelatin, or the antibiotic neomycin.
It is important that their family and close contacts are immunised to help protect them.
If you are pregnant
Pregnant women who have not been immunised and become ill with measles increase the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight infants.
If you are exposed to measles during pregnancy you might be eligible for immunoglobulin to prevent the infection. Contact the Centre for Disease Control or your health provider.
Breastfeeding mothers can receive the MMR vaccine safely.
Once measles is introduced into a community it has the potential to spread through those who are not immune, including young babies, pregnant women and those with immuno-compromised conditions.
The two high risk groups for measles are:
- infants who haven't had their first measles-containing vaccine
- those born between 1966 and 1996, who may have only had one vaccine.
If you haven't caught measles that doesn't mean you are immune. Since measles immunisation was introduced, the disease stopped circulating widely and you may not have been exposed. Those born after 1966 may not have been exposed to measles and are at risk of infection.
For more information contact the Centre for Disease Control.
Last updated: 20 February 2018