Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination: a guide by Childhealthy

March 27, 2024

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination: a guide by Childhealthy

As paediatricians dedicated to the health and wellbeing of children, we’ve seen first-hand the difference that vaccination can make in the lives of young ones and their families. The MMR vaccine is the immunisation that protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Understanding the MMR vaccine

Measles, Mumps and Rubella are viral infections that were once common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is the best defence against this infection, offering long lasting protection.

Why vaccinate?

The MMR vaccine is administered in two doses, the first typically given at around 12 months of age and the second at around 3 to 4 years. This timing is designed to protect your child and help them develop immunity to these illnesses when they’re most vulnerable.

Safety and efficacy

Concerns about vaccine safety are natural for any parent. The MMR vaccine is among the most studied medical products in the world. Extensive research, including data from the NHS, has consistently shown it to be safe and effective. Side effects, if they occur, are generally mild and temporary, such as a low-grade fever or rash.

The role of vaccination in public health

Vaccinating against MMR is not just about protecting your child; it’s about community health. When vaccination rates are high, this significantly reduces the spread of the virus. This protection is vital for those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons, providing a shield for the most vulnerable.

Spotting the symptoms

Measles, is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects the respiratory system. Symptoms typically begin to appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

  1. High fever.
  2. Red and blotchy rash. This typically starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.
  3. A persistent cough is common and can be accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose.
  4. Sore throat and discomfort swallowing.
  5. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.
  6. Loss of appetite.
  7. General feelings of being unwell, tiredness, and fatigue are common symptoms.
  8. Koplik’s spots: These are small white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background, typically found inside the mouth.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral infection that often causes mild symptoms, particularly in children. The symptoms of rubella typically appear 14 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and may include:


  1. Mild fever is often the first sign of rubella and may last for a few days.
  2. A pink or light red rash is common with rubella. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash typically lasts about three days and may be itchy.
  3. Lymph nodes, especially those behind the ears and at the back of the neck, may become swollen and tender.
  4. Some people, mainly older children and adults, may experience joint pain.
  5. Headaches are common with rubella, particularly during the early stages of the infection.
  6. Nasal symptoms such as congestion or a runny nose may occur.
  7. Inflammation of the eyes, also known as pink eye, can occur, causing redness, itching, and discharge.

Mumps is another viral infection. It primarily affects the salivary glands. The symptoms of mumps typically appear about 16-18 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

  1. Swelling of the salivary glands, which are located just below and in front of the ears. This swelling can cause a noticeable bulge in the cheeks or jawline.
  2. The swollen salivary glands can cause pain or discomfort when chewing, swallowing, or talking.
  3. Fever
  4. Headaches are common during a mumps infection and can range from mild to severe.
  5. Muscle aches and pains, often similar to those experienced with the flu
  6. Tiredness and fatigue
  7. Loss of appetite


MMR vaccination: top 5 tips

  1. Start early: ensure your child receives the first dose of the MMR vaccine around their first birthday, with the second dose before starting school, as recommended.
  2. Stay informed: keep yourself updated on the latest health guidelines and recommendations from reliable sources like the NHS.
  3. Understand the benefits: the MMR vaccine protects against three diseases, making it a crucial part of your child’s vaccination schedule.
  4. Monitor for side effects: be aware of common side effects like fever or rash and know when to seek medical advice.
  5. Spread awareness: share accurate information about the MMR vaccine with other parents to help dispel myths and encourage vaccination.

As parents, we all strive to make informed choices that benefit our children’s health. By choosing vaccination, you’re not only safeguarding your child but you are contributing to the broader effort to eliminate these diseases for future generations.

We hope this guide has provided you with a clearer understanding of the importance of the MMR vaccine. Protecting our children from measles, mumps and rubella is a responsibility we share, and together, we can ensure a healthier tomorrow for all children.


  • NHS website: comprehensive information on mumps, measles and rubella.
  • Public health England: guidelines on mumps, measles and rubella.

Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child, please contact your doctor for advice.