Back to School Measles/MMR

Measles continues to circulate across England with all regions having cases or outbreaks. All children returning to school after a summer break without being up to date with their MMR vaccinations are at risk of catching measles in their classroom from an infected classmate.

What it is

Over 102,000 children starting primary school in England are at risk of catching measles

With millions of children across the country going back to school this week, NHS England is urging parents to check that their children are up to date with their MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations in the wake of measles cases rising across the country.

Childhood vaccination rates have fallen over the past ten years and this week statistics show that over 102,000 children aged four and five years old starting in reception are not protected against catching measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles is highly infectious and if left unvaccinated nine out of ten children in a classroom can catch the disease if just one child is infectious.

If you are unsure if you or your child are up to date, check your child's red book or GP records and make an appointment to catch up any missed doses.

For more information see NHS vaccinations and when to have them on the NHS website.

Answers to some common questions about measles and the MMR vaccine

Why are we seeing these outbreaks of measles?

Measles is a highly infectious disease, spreading quickly from person to person, especially in schools. A child with measles will infect almost all unprotected children they have contact with. Although we have high rates of vaccination in the UK, the levels dropped some years ago when the MMR vaccine was mistakenly associated with autism. This led to some babies not being vaccinated and so measles is spreading rapidly among these children now they are older.

Because of the scare some years ago, I gave my child a single measles vaccination, can they have the two doses of MMR?

Yes it is recommended your child has two doses of MMR. You will also be protecting them against rubella and mumps.

When are the MMR vaccinations usually given?

The best times are between 12 and 13 months of age and again at three years and four months, with one dose on each occasion. But, if your child was not vaccinated then, they can be vaccinated at any age with two doses one month apart. 

Will there be any side effects to the vaccination?

Your child may get the symptoms of measles, mumps and rubella for up to six weeks after the vaccination but in a very much milder form. This proves that the vaccine is working and your child is building up resistance to future contact with the viruses that cause the three diseases. Not all children show these symptoms but that doesn’t mean the vaccine is not working.

Should parents in outbreak areas get vaccinated against measles?

As with many diseases, once you have had measles, you do not catch it again because you have built up a natural resistance to it. So, if you have had measles or two doses of MMR vaccine you do not need to get vaccinated now.

Back in 1994, a large part of the population aged 5 to 16 was immunised against measles and rubella so people in this age group are almost certainly immune and therefore they too do not need to get vaccinated now.

For more information about measles and MMR see the NHS website.

Useful links

Social Media Handles

NHS UK

Facebook account: @NHSWebsite

Twitter account:@NHSuk

Instagram account: @NHS

NHS England

Facebook account: @NHSEngland

Twitter account:@nhsengland

Instagram account: @nhsengland

Department of Health and Social Care

Facebook account: @DHSCgovuk

Twitter account: @DHSCgovuk

UK Health Security Agency

Facebook account: @UKHealthSecurityAgency

Twitter account: @UKHSA

Web links

NHS vaccination schedule on the NHS website

Quarterly Childhood Vaccination Coverage 2022 – 2023 on the GOV.UK website

MMR Shared Learning, Inequalities & Innovation -Vaccinations and Screening on the Future NHS Collaboration website

Page last reviewed: 15/11/2023