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You can avoid catching measles by having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

If the MMR vaccine is not suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if you're at immediate risk of catching measles.

Routine vaccination

The MMR vaccine is given as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme.

One dose is usually given to a child when they're 12 to 13 months old. A second dose is given at 3 years and 4 months.

Contact a GP if you're uncertain about whether your child's vaccinations are up-to-date.

You or your child can be vaccinated at any point if you have not been fully vaccinated before.

If you're not sure whether you were vaccinated in the past, having the vaccine again will not cause any harm.

Special circumstances

A dose of the MMR vaccine can also be given to anyone over 6 months of age if they're at immediate risk of catching measles.

For example, this could be if:

  • there's an outbreak of measles in your local area
  • you have been in close contact with someone who has measles
  • you're planning on travelling to an area where the infection is widespread

Children who have the vaccine before their first birthday should still have the 2 routine doses at around 13 months of age and 3 years and 4 months.

Human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) is a special concentration of antibodies that can give short-term but immediate protection against measles.

It may be recommended for people in the following groups if they have been exposed to someone with measles:

  • babies under 6 months of age
  • pregnant women who have not been fully vaccinated or have not had measles before
  • people with weak immune systems (for example, those with HIV or people receiving treatment that weakens their immune system, such as treatment for leukaemia)

HNIG should ideally be given within 6 days of exposure.

If you already have measles, it's important to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other people.

You should:

  • avoid work or school for at least 4 days from when you first developed the measles rash
  • try to avoid contact with people who are more vulnerable to the infection, such as young children and pregnant women, while you're ill