What is measles and who can get the vaccine?

January 31, 2024


Measles vaccination rates are at a ten-year low as cases rise nationwide. Find out about measles, who can get the vaccine, and what you can do to stay safe.


What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus.

Most children recover from measles without complications, but in some, it can be more severe and lead to admission to hospital.

To learn about the symptoms of measles, check out the NHS website.

What is the measles vaccine?

The NHS advises that children receive two vaccine doses to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella.

The measles vaccine is also known as MMR vaccine – protecting you against all three of measles, mumps and rubella in one dose.

The vaccine is given in two doses: the first dose when the child is one year old and the second when they are three years and four months old. Both doses are needed for the best protection.

The NHS advises that the MMR vaccine is safe, effective and the best protection for your child. Although there have been historic concerns that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism, there is no evidence of this. Several studies have been conducted and found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Need to arrange a vaccine?

If you need to get your child’s MMR vaccine or check if your child is fully protected, contact your local GP practice.

Who is at risk?

People most at risk are:

  • Babies
  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a weakened immune system.

These groups are most at risk of the virus spreading to other parts of the body and causing rare complications such as hearing loss, meningitis or pneumonia.

How does measles spread?

Measles spreads when you have close contact with other people. For example, it tends to spread quickly in schools and nurseries.

The virus can be spread by:

  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Direct skin-to-skin contact
  • Sharing cutlery, cups, towels, clothes or bedding.

How to prevent measles from spreading

To reduce the risk of spreading the infection, always be careful to:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Dispose of any used tissues immediately.

If you think you or your child might have measles, contact your GP practice and speak to your doctor immediately. They will advise you on treatment options and how long you will be contagious.

Sign up to our mailing listKeep up-to-date with Healthwatch East Sussex and receive regular information on our activities and how you can have your say on local health and social care services

For detail on how we use your data please view our privacy policy here.