What are the side effects of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine?
Common side effects
- About 10 per cent of children who receive the MMR vaccine experience local swelling, redness or pain at the injection site. These symptoms usually resolve with one or two days.
- Between 5 and 15 per cent develop a high fever and tiredness or lack of energy (malaise) between 5 and 12 days after their first dose of the vaccine.
- About 5 per cent get a rash which cannot spread to anyone else.
- Side effects are more common after the first dose, recommended at 12 months.
Rare side effects
- Up tp 1.6 per cent get swollen glands, a stiff neck or joint pains.
- About 0.03 per cent of children who get a first dose of MMR vaccine experience febrile convulsions (fits). These happen when a baby or child's temperature (fever) goes up suddenly.
Very rare side effects
- Between 0.003 and 0.005 per cent develop a blood disorder called thrombocytopaenia after their first dose of the MMR vaccine. Thrombocytopaenia causes children to bruise or bleed very easily. It usually lasts for between one and six months and then gets better.
- About 0.0001 per cent of people who get any of the vaccines have an allergic reaction that affects their whole body, called anaphylaxis. This reaction usually happens within 15 minutes of getting the vaccination and can be treated with an injection (epinephrine). People who have this reaction usually recover quickly and don’t experience any long-term effects.
What are the symptoms of measles?
- Measles usually starts with a fever and severe tiredness or lack of energy (malaise) followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (eye infection or pink eye).
- Children with measles get a rash that looks like lace and usually starts on their faces or necks and then spreads to their whole bodies.
Less common symptoms
- About 9 per cent of children with measles get otitis media (middle-ear infection or ear ache).
- About 8 per cent get diarrhoea.
- About 6 per cent get pneumonia (lung infection).
- Measles infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriages, premature labour and premature birth.
Very rare symptoms
- About 0.1 per cent of children with measles develop encephalitis (brain infection).
- Between 0.01 per cent and 0.015 per cent of people who get measles die from measles encephalitis, and many of the children who survive it have permanent brain damage.
- About 0.001 per cent of people who catch measles develop a brain disease called sub-acute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). SSPE usually develops about seven years after measles infection and people who get it always die.
REFERENCES / How vaccination has impacted the prevalence of measles
Updated with data from NNDSS Annual Report Writing Group. Australia’s Notifiable Disease Status, 2010: Annual Report of the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Communicable Diseases Intelligence Volume 36 March 2012: 36:1-69.