Measles Complications Vs Side Effects Of MMR Immunisation

Measles Complications Vs Side Effects Of MMR Immunisation

The risk of MMR immunisation causing serious harm is extremely rare. MMR immunisation is considerably safer than getting measles. Check out a comparison of the effects of measles with MMR immunisation responses.


How safe is MMR immunisation?

The risk of MMR causing serious harm is extremely small. MMR is considerably safer than getting measles (or mumps and rubella). See the following comparison.

Effects of the disease

1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die in developed countries.

1 in 10 people with measles will get complications including:

  • diarrhoea
  • ear infections
  • pneumonia
  • other diseases of the airways (like bronchiolitis and croup)
  • ulcers of the eye (corneal ulcers)
  • idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (low platelets)

Measles in pregnancy increases risk for premature labour, miscarriage and stillbirth.

1 in 1000 people with measles develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) - 15 in 100 of these people die and approximately 30 in 100 are left with permanent brain damage.

1 in 100,000 people who have had measles will, years later, develop a serious brain inflammation called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). This serious complication always results in death.

Possible side effects of MMR

After MMR immunisation, a fever of 39.4°C or more happens in 5 to 15 in 100 children. This usually develops 6 to 12 days after immunisation and lasts 1 to 2 days. 5 in 100 children get a rash at the same time.

Side effects of the different components of the MMR vaccine can also include:

  • mild swelling of the glands around the jaw 10 to 14 days after immunisation
  • generalised swollen glands 2 to 4 weeks after immunisation
  • joint pain 2 to 4 weeks after immunisation - this is more common in adult women than children

Rare side effects of MMR

  • temporary low platelet count (idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura)
  • anaphylaxis
  • febrile seizures

Immunisation Advisory Centre. University of Auckland. [Accessed 30/06/2022]

Immunisation Handbook 2020 (measles chapter). Wellington: Ministry of Health. [Accessed 30/06/2022]


This page last reviewed 04 July 2022.

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