Why it’s important to get the measles vaccine

Measles spreads faster than almost any other disease and can be very dangerous. On average, one dose is 95% effective, and two doses is more than 99% effective. People who have had their measles vaccine can’t catch measles and spread it to vulnerable people.

Last updated: 19 May 2022

The risk of measles

Measles outbreaks happen regularly overseas, and with people coming into Aotearoa New Zealand, there’s a risk of measles spreading here.  

New Zealand’s measles vaccination rates have fallen in the past few years, and we need to boost them again as we reopen to the world after COVID-19.   

The measles vaccination is also called the MMR vaccine. It protects you against 3 viral infections – measles, mumps, and rubella.  

Measles can be very dangerous 

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms typically begin with high fever, cough, runny nose, and red watery eyes. 

If you’re not vaccinated it can make you very sick and affect your health for the rest of your life. 

One in 10 people with measles will need hospital treatment and it can result in serious complications like pneumonia, seizures, and swelling of the brain. People can potentially die from measles. 

In the most recent New Zealand outbreak, more than 2,000 people contracted measles in 2019 and 700 had to go to hospital. Māori and Pasifika were particularly affected.  

Avoid having to isolate 

If you haven’t had your measles vaccination and you’re in the same room as someone with measles, you'll have to isolate for up to 2 weeks. This is to make sure you don’t have measles and can’t pass it on to others.  

Stop the spread of measles 

Some people can’t have the measles vaccine because they are too young or have a disease that affects their immune system.  

People who have had their measles vaccine can’t catch measles and spread it to vulnerable people.  

We need 95% of people vaccinated to reach ‘community immunity’ (sometimes known as ‘herd immunity’) to help stop future outbreaks. 

If you’re pregnant 

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 birthweight. This can have life-long impacts on your baby’s health. 

You can’t have the MMR vaccine while you’re pregnant, so it is important to be vaccinated before planning a pregnancy. 

Find out if you’ve had your measles vaccine, where to get one, and what to expect

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