How safe is the MMR vaccine?
The MMR vaccine has an excellent safety record and is very effective. It has been used in New Zealand for 30 years, since 1990. After one dose, about 95 percent of people are protected from measles and after two doses, more than 99 percent 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, like a mild fever, a rash or swollen glands.
The benefits of immunisation are huge – immunisation reduces deaths, hospitalisations, permanent health damage and serious illness. The chance of having a serious side-effect from the MMR vaccine is extremely rare – far less likely than the risk of serious illness as a result of catching measles, mumps or rubella. . If a severe allergic reaction does happen, the vaccinator can effectively treat it. That’s why you’ll be asked to stay for 20 minutes after. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will talk about possible reactions with you at the time.
There are very few people who can’t be immunised. Talk with your health professional if you’ve had a serious reaction to a vaccine in the past, are being treated for cancer or a severe illness, or had a blood transfusion in the last year. You can’t have the MMR vaccine when you’re pregnant.
If you’d like a little more independent information about the science and safety of immunisation there’s a great website provided by the Immunisation Advisory Centre. You can also call freephone 0800 IMMUNE (466 863) if you want to talk directly to a health professional.