Measles and young people: Are you immunised?
Getting immunised is the best thing you can do to keep yourself, your whānau and your community safe from serious, infectious diseases.
If you’re aged 15-30 you might not be protected against measles. Measles is a serious disease that can make you very sick. It’s much more contagious than COVID-19 so spreads fast!
Getting immunised is the best way to protect against measles – it’s easy and free.
When you immunise against measles, you don't just protect yourself. You also protect your whānau, your community, and future generations from harm.
Where to do to get immunised
- You can ask your GP for a measles immunisation. It’s free. Your GP may also call you or you parent/caregiver to offer an appointment.
- You can get a free immunisation at some pharmacies if you’re 16 or older. You don’t need an appointment, you can just turn up.
- A health professional may offer you a free measles immunisation when you’re at a community event, or at school or work.
If you don’t know if you’ve been fully immunised against measles, it’s best to get immunised. It’s safe to have an extra dose of the MMR vaccine.
Lots of people aged between 15 and 30 years didn’t get fully immunised when they were children. This puts you at risk of catching and spreading measles.
Ask your doctor, parent or caregiver if you had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine as a child.
If you don’t know, it’s best to get immunised. It’s safe to have an extra dose of the MMR vaccine.
Some other countries only immunise against measles and rubella. So, even if you were immunised against measles overseas, make sure you get your free MMR in New Zealand so that you’re protected from mumps too.
There are good reasons to get immunised
- You could get very sick if you get measles: You can have complications like pneumonia, seizures and swelling of the brain. People can die from measles.
- 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 won’t catch measles and spread it to vulnerable people.
- If you get measles when you’re pregnant*, it could affect your baby: You may go into labour early or your baby may have a low birth-weight. This can have life-long impacts on your baby’s health.* You can’t have the MMR vaccine when you’re pregnant.
- You could miss out on earning, learning or having fun: If you haven’t had the MMR vaccine and are in the same room as someone with measles, you will have to isolate for up to two weeks. This is to make sure you don’t have measles and can’t pass it on to others.
- We recently had a measles outbreak: In New Zealand, more than 2,000 people got measles in 2019. 700 had to go to hospital. Māori and Pacific peoples were particularly affected. We need 95 percent of people to be immune to reach ‘community immunity’ (sometimes known as ‘herd immunity’) and help stop future outbreaks.
- Measles is only a plane-ride away: Measles is still common in many countries. People can bring it into New Zealand without knowing. You could also be exposed if you travel to certain countries overseas
The measles immunisation is called MMR and protects you against three serious diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.
In New Zealand, children are given their first dose at 12 months and their second dose at 15 months (from 1 October).
How does the vaccine work?
The MMR vaccine works by helping your body to make antibodies that fight measles.
MMR is given as an injection in your arm. When you’ve had the MMR vaccine, your immune system will recognise and fight the measles virus if you come into contact with it for real.
This protects you – and those around you – from getting sick or spreading measles.
What’s in the vaccine?
The MMR vaccine is made of small amounts of weakened forms of the measles, mumps and rubella germs. These trigger your immune system to make antibodies to fight the germs.
The vaccine has a few other ingredients to keep it stable and ready to go. These ingredients are in tiny amounts and also found in common foods and drinks.
All vaccines approved for use in New Zealand have a good safety record and have ongoing safety monitoring. Go to the Ministry of Health's webpage about vaccine safety and vaccine ingredients to help you make an informed decision about immunisation.
MMR vaccine safety
The MMR vaccine has an excellent safety record. MMR vaccines have been used in New Zealand since 1990.
The MMR vaccine very effective. 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 ten people may get a mild response between five and 12 days after immunisation, 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:
- 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 a severe 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.
Making an informed decision
Immunisation is your choice. The Immunisation Advisory Centre (University of Auckland) has a lot of good information sources to help you make an informed decision about immunisation. Visit the Immunisation Advisory Centre's website.
Blenheim and Picton pharmacies
- Hurst & Taylor Unichem Pharmacy
- Wairau Pharmacy
- Community Care Pharmacy
- Unichem Springlands
- Unichem Redwoodtown
- Civic Pharmacy
- Picton Healthcare Pharmacy
Richmond, Motueka and Mapua pharmacies
- Unichem Richmond Mall, Richmond
- McGlashen Pharmacy Limited, Richmond
- Unichem 162 High St Pharmacy, Motueka
- Bay Pharmacy, Motueka
- Mapua Pharmacy
- Greenwood St Pharmacy, Motueka
- Life Pharmacy, Motueka
Golden Bay pharmacies
- Golden Bay Pharmacy, Takaka
- Victory Square Pharmacy
- Life Pharmacy Prices
- Harley's Pharmacy, Tahunanui
- Collingwood Street Pharmacy
You are eligible for free MMR immunisation if you meet any of these criteria:
- you were born after 1 January 1969 and are eligible to receive funded healthcare in New Zealand and you have not previously received two doses of MMR vaccine
- you are aged under 18 regardless of your immigration status
- you are a Recognised Seasonal Employers Scheme worker
More information on eligibility can be found on the Ministry of Health's website.
Learn more about immunisation, measles and the MMR vaccine by watching these videos.
Immunisation and how it works
In this video, Hastings GP Dr Kiriana Bird talks about how immunisation works and why it is important for you and your community.
Immunisation: Common questions answered
In this video, Hastings GP Dr Kiriana Bird answers some common questions people have about vaccines, eg, what’s in a vaccine, how effective is it, and how do I know it’s safe?
Measles and the MMR vaccine
This video from the Immunisation Advisory Centre (University of Auckland) is a quick summary of measles facts, made during New Zealand’s 2016 measles outbreaks.
Page last updated: 29/10/2020