Vaccinating against Measles (MMR)

Be a kaitiaki for your whānau and whakapapa

What is Measles?

Measles is a serious, highly contagious disease that can make you very sick. Measles is caused by a virus and is easily preventable with immunisation. The first symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, sore and watery 'pink' eyes and sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of your mouth. It is possible to have serious complications from measles-like pneumonia, seizures and swelling of the brain.

How can I protect against measles?

The MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella) vaccine is the best protection for you, your whānau and community from catching and spreading measles.

Why should I get vaccinated?

  • You might make others very sick if you get measles. Some people can't have the MMR vaccine because they're very young or have a disease that affects their immune system. Being immunised means you're less likely to catch measles and spread it to vulnerable.
  • If you get measles when you're pregnant, it could affect your baby. This can have life-long impacts on your baby's health. You may go into labour early or your baby may have a low birth weight. You can't get the MMR vaccine when you are pregnant.
  • You could miss out on learning and having fun. If you haven't had the MMR vaccine and are in the same room as someone with measles, you will have to stay at home for up to two weeks.

I'm not sure if I've been vaccinated, how do I find out?

Lot's of people between 15-30 years of age didn't get fully vaccinated as children. This puts you at risk of catching and spreading measles. You can ask your family doctor/GP Practice or parent or caregiver whether you are fully vaccinated against measles.

I had the vaccination years ago. Will it still protect me?

If you have had two MMR vaccinations in the past, you will not need to be vaccinated again. Some people had only one vaccination which may not be enough. If you are not sure, contact your GP Practice/family doctor.

Is it free to get a vaccination? Where can I get an MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is free and you can get vaccinated by contacting your GP Practice/family doctor, pharmacy, or by school-based health nurses (15-19 year olds) and iwi health providers.

Who is immune to measles?

People develop 99% immunity to measles if they are fully vaccinated (two doses) with the measles vaccine. Adults aged 50 or older (born in New Zealand before 1969) are generally considered to be immune as there was no measles-containing vaccine until before 1969. Before 1969, almost everyone caught the disease as a child.

If you have previously been diagnosed with measles, once you have recovered your body is protected form future measles. 

How is the vaccine given?

The MMR vaccine is given as an injection in your arm. When you've had the MMR vaccine, your immune system will fight the measles virus if you come into contact with the virus for real. These trigger your immune system to make antibodies to fight measles.

What's in the vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is made of small amounts of weakened forms of measles, mumps and rubella germs. The vaccine has a few other ingredients in it to keep it stable and ready to go. These ingredients are in tiny amounts and some of these can also be found in common food and drinks.

How safe is the vaccine?           

MMR vaccines have an excellent safety record and has been used in New Zealand since 1990. It is also very effective. After one dose, about 95% of people are protected from measles and after two does, more than 99% of people are protected.

A small number of people who are fully immunised may still get sick. But they usually get a milder illness than people who haven’t been immunised.
Fewer than one in 10 people may get a mild response between five and 12 days after immunisation this might look like a mild fever, a rash or swollen glands.

Other mild reactions that can happen (usually within one or two days of being immunised) include:
• headache
• a slight fever (feeling hot)
• nausea (feeling sick)
• fainting or feeling faint (eating beforehand helps
with this)
• generally feeling a bit unwell.

The chance of having a serious side-effect from the MMR vaccine is extremely rare and would happen within 20 minutes of being immunised. That’s why you’ll be asked to stay for 20 minutes after you have the MMR vaccine. If an allergic reaction does happen, the vaccinator can effectively treat it. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will talk about possible reactions with you at the time, and confirm you have understood them.

There are very few people who can’t be immunised. Talk with your health professional if you’ve had a reaction to any vaccine in the past, are being treated for cancer or a severe illness, or had a blood transfusion in the last year. 


Be a Kaitiaki for your whānau and whakapapa. Immunise to protect yourself and your whānau. 

Last modified:

In this section

Public health