MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three separate illnesses - measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) - in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses.
Measles, mumps and rubella are very common, highly infectious, conditions that can have serious, potentially fatal, complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness.
They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.
Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, it's rare for children in the UK to develop these serious conditions. However, outbreaks happen and cases of measles in particular have been rising in recent years, so it's important to make sure your children and yourself are up-to-date with MMR vaccination.
MMR vaccine for babies and pre-schoolers
MMR vaccine is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday.
They will then have a second injection of the vaccine before starting school, usually between the ages of three and five.
The MMR vaccine can sometimes be given to babies from six months of age if they may have been exposed to the measles virus, or during a measles outbreak.
Babies under six months can't have the MMR vaccine because they don't respond to it well. However, they usually have some antibodies to measles already in their system, passed on from their mum at the time of birth, which may give them some protection for the first few months.
The MMR vaccine is given as a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm.
MMR for older children
Children of any age up to 18 who missed, or only partially completed, their earlier MMR vaccination, can have a 'catch-up' MMR vaccination on the NHS.
If you know, or suspect, your child hasn't been fully immunised, arrange with your GP for them to have a catch-up MMR vaccination,
MMR for women planning pregnancy
If you are a woman thinking about getting pregnant you may need MMR vaccination if you have low levels of rubella antibodies or you haven't had a rubella or MMR vaccination before.
Ask your GP to check if you're not sure whether you've had rubella or MMR before. They can arrange MMR vaccination to protect you against rubella.
Be aware that the MMR vaccination is not suitable for women who are already pregnant or who become pregnant soon after (within one month of) vaccination..
Information from NHS choices