Australia’s trusted independent immunisation experts

How does the MMR vaccine work?

The vaccine works by injecting your child with a small dose of live, but weakened, measles, mumps and rubella viruses. This then causes your child's immune system to respond and make antibodies to fight the viruses in the vaccine.

The body "remembers" these viruses so that if your child is exposed to the full strength viruses in the future, their immune system will respond quickly and attack the virus. This will prevent your child from developing the disease.

What is in the MMR vaccine?

MMR vaccine contains live, weakened measles, mumps and rubella viruses which are grown on chick embryo cells and human diploid cells. See the website below for more information:

The vaccine also contains a sugar called lactose, an antibiotic called neomycin, amino acids, and sorbitol and mannitol which are special sugars to keep the vaccine stable.2,3

This vaccine does NOT contain any mercury, formaldehyde or aluminium type products.

How effective is the MMR vaccine?

The levels of effectiveness vary for the different components of the MMR vaccine. After their first dose of MMR:4

  • 90 to 95 children out of 100 will be immune to measles
  • 90 to 92 children out of 100 will be immune to mumps5
  • 97 to 99 children out of 100 will be immune to rubella.6

Why are children given two doses of MMR vaccine?

Two doses give your child and the community better protection.

The first dose of MMR vaccine does not protect between 5 and 10 children out of every 100 from these diseases. After two doses of MMR vaccine, only 1 child in 100 is still left unprotected.2 Two doses will help to eventually eliminate these diseases.

Can I delay MMR vaccination until my child is older?

To delay measles vaccination beyond the recommended time of the first dose puts your child at risk of contracting measles. Measles infection is common and has a higher risk of complications and death for children under 5 years of age.7

What should I expect after my child receives the MMR vaccine?

Soon after receiving the vaccine, your child may experience some soreness, redness or swelling on the part of their body where they received the injection. 

As the vaccine contains weakened measles, mumps and rubella viruses, your child may experience mild symptoms of these diseases, such as a rash, fever, swollen glands or joint pain. These symptoms are not infectious and tend to occur 5 to 12 days after vaccination, disappearing after 1 to 2 days.

Copyright NCIRS 2009 - Last updated 14 June 2013


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