Protect against measles

Become a Guardian of the Future by getting immunised against measles. Not only will you be protecting yourself against a disease that’s even more contagious than COVID-19, you’ll also be protecting your whānau, your community, and future generations from harm. 

Measles is a serious disease that can make you very sick. But getting immunised is easy and free.

Protect the people you care about. Immunise to help stop the spread of measles. It’s free at GPs or participating pharmacies.

Not sure if you’re immunised against measles?  It’s okay to get immunised again.

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Title: Quiet Hero - Protect those you care about from measles

[Family sitting in lounge watching TV] 

[Television voice over] Among the victims of the measles  outbreak, tragically, children and babies.

[Young man texts: We'll meet u there]

[Voiceover] If you're aged 15 to 30 you could be at  greater risk of measles,

[Young man leaves house and meets friends outside. Group head along to community health clinic]

because you may have missed out on getting immunised as a child.

But when you get a free measles immunisation, you don't just protect yourself against the disease that's about eight times more contagious than COVID-19

[Group exit community health clinic and stand outside]

you protect your whānau, your community and future generations from harm.

[Graphic - Be a guardian of the future - Get a FREE measles immunisation]

Aged 15-30? Be a Guardian of the Future. Protect those you care about from measles, a disease much more contagious than COVID-19. Get a free measles immunisation from your GP or from participating pharmacies. Not sure if you’re immunised? It’s okay to get immunised again.

Title: A kōrero about measles and immunisation with Nehe Milner-Skudder & Emma Espiner

[Nehe Milner-Skudder and Emma Espiner to camera]

[Nehe Milner-Skudder]

Kia ora whānau, it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to podcaster, award winning columnist, mother, wife, National Communications Lead at Hāpai te Hauora and if that wasn't enough, soon to be practicing doctor, Emma Espiner.

Tena koe Emma, thanks so much for joining me today for this korero.

[Emma Espiner]

Kia ora Nehe, thanks for having me.


Awesome. Now a couple of weeks ago, a couple of weeks back sorry, you guys fired through some questions that you had around measles and today we’re going to go through a few of them. 

First question, submitted by @manda_nz, great tag name.

And your question was - Is measles a deadly disease?

And that’s a good question cause yeah, I’ve heard that it can be life-threatening as well.


Yeah, it can be. So measles is a serious disease that can potentially be life-threatening.  

About 1 in 10 people with measles will need to go to hospital and it can be more harmful to those with weakened immune system, our hapū māmā and also our younger whānau.

And that’s why it’s really important to be protected against measles.


Mhmm, yeah for sure. 

Is the measles immunisation, is that the same as MMR? 


Yeah, essentially.

So MMR is a vaccine that protects you against three infectious diseases.

So measles, mumps and rubella. 

So if you get an MMR vaccine, you’ll be immunised against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.


Oh choice, so I guess it’s like a three-in-one deal.  

And it’s free as well eh?


Yeah, that’s right. 

So it takes two doses of the MMR vaccine  to be fully protected against measles.

People are usually immunised against measles when they’re kids, but in the 90’s and early 2000’s, a lot of people missed out on their MMR immunisations and so they aren’t protected against measles, mumps or rubella. 

That’s why it’s important for everyone to get up to date with their free MMR immunisation.


Yeah for sure.  

And next question we have is from, and I apologise if I got your name wrong, @jurrellmaiava. And they asked If I have measles? 

Nope, I don’t have measles, nor is it something that I want to have anytime soon. 

So thankfully I’m immunised against measles. 


Yeah and it’s a good thing that you are Nehe, because that’s not just about protecting yourself but protecting your whānau as well. 

So measles is about 8 x more infectious than COVID-19, so if anyone in your family isn’t immune to measles, chances are they’ll catch it if you have it. 

I’ve got a six year old daughter, Nico, and we talk about how in te reo Māori the word for vaccine is rongoā āraimate. 

Now ārai means shield or protection and by using our kupu Māori my daughter can understand that by being immunised, she’s got this cool shield that not only protects her but her friends and whānau as well.


Yeah that is so cool.

That’s a new word that I’ve, yeah just learned as well and something that I’ll adopt and try, and try and use too.

Another good question here is, Is the measles immunisation on the school health schedule?


So our younger whānau, our tamariki, they’re typically immunised against measles at age 12 and 15 months, so that’s those two doses.

That’s to ensure that they’re protected against the risk of measles, mumps and rubella.

And our, our little babies they’re at most risk of complications from measles, so it's really important that they’re immunised at the recommended time. 


Aww yeah.

And so why is it important for 15-30 year olds in particular to protect against measles? 


Yeah so as I said earlier a lot of people that are in that age group, between 15 and 30 years, they didn’t get immunised when they were children.  

So this put them, puts them at greater risk of catching and spreading measles.


Aw ok sweet. 

Can you get immunised against measles safely during COVID-19? 


Yes absolutely!

And if anything now is a really good time to do it, as we have all learnt how important it is to look after our health.

And I mean, a measles outbreak would be devastating right now, especially in these really tough times.

So, super important to look after your health and the health of your whānau and the most vulnerable around you like our tamariki, our hapū māmā and those with weakened immune systems.

So if people are still unsure, they can always talk to a healthcare professional about it.


Awesome. Well there you have it whānau, lots of great info on the subject around measles.  

Thank you so much for your time and insight Emma, it’s been greatly appreciated.

I hope we were able to cover off the main points for you, and as Emma said if you have any questions around this, speak to a healthcare professional for more info. 

Hopefully team you now understand why it’s important to get immunised against measles. 

[Nehe & Emma]

Kia ora.

In the video above, join Nehe Milner-Skudder and Emma Espiner, from Hāpai Te Hauora, as they kōrero about the importance of protecting against measles. In this video, Emma answers questions/pātai about measles and the importance of immunisation to protect whānau and community.

Why you should get immunised

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.

Where to go to get immunised

  • You can ask your GP for a measles immunisation. It’s free.
  • You can also get a free immunisation at some pharmacies if you’re 16 or older. Check if your local pharmacy offers the MMR vaccine (or check out the map below). You can just turn up. You don’t need an appointment. The pharmacist will take you to a private space in the pharmacy to do this.
  • A health professional may offer you a free measles immunisation when you're at a community event, or at school or work. See events happening near you on the map below.

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.

About the measles vaccine

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.

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:

  • headache
  • 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.

Read more about vaccine safety.

Who shouldn’t get immunised against measles

There are very few people who can’t be immunised.

Talk with your health professional if you’ve had a serious reaction to a vaccine in the past, are being treated for cancer or a severe illness, or had a blood transfusion in the last year.

You can’t have the MMR vaccine when you’re pregnant.

If you’re born before 1 January 1969, you are likely to have had measles as a child and be immune.

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