Protect yourself with the MMR vaccine if you’re a health professional

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has asked us to pass on this important message to College members.

Being up-to-date with vaccines is an important component of what we as clinicians do to protect ourselves and our patients.

The measles vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1968, but uptake was low until it changed to MMR vaccine in 1988. In November 1994, a large campaign with measles-rubella vaccine was offered to everyone at school (those aged 5-16 years), and a second dose of MMR was then introduced at pre-school age in 1996. Other countries introduced measles and MMR vaccines at different times.

The national recommendation (external PDF file) for all healthcare staff is that they should be up-to-date with their routine immunisations; the MMR vaccine is particularly important to reduce transmission, and to protect you and your patients. Satisfactory evidence of protection includes documentation of two doses of MMR vaccine, or a positive antibody test for both measles and rubella. This should be available in your occupational health department.

Anyone born in the UK before 1970 is likely to have had measles as a child. If you did not have your MMR vaccine during childhood, you can receive it on the NHS. This will protect you, and those around you, both at work and in the community. If you are not sure, you can still have MMR vaccination on the NHS. The rate of side effects is lower with second (and subsequent) doses, and so it is not harmful to have an extra dose. 

Clinicians who look after individuals with immunosuppression should ideally ensure their patients are up-to-date with vaccinations prior to starting immunosuppressive therapy. You should also advise the same for their friends and family. If timing does not allow that, consider testing individuals for measles IgG (see Annex 2 in this national measles guidelines (external PDF file)). This will help guide their management when measles is circulating in the community.

Find out about the RCGP's new measles eLearning module.

About the writers

Professor Susan Hopkins is Chief Medical Advisor at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). In this capacity she leads the Clinical and Public Health Group, whose objective is to provide professional health security, clinical and public health leadership.