Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella Vaccine Information for Parents

New combination Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella Vaccine

Page last updated: 20 April 2015

Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella - Information for Parents - English (PDF 733 KB)

4 Diseases 1 Vaccine

Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella

Information for parents

From 1 July 2013

New Combination Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella Vaccine

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What is the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine?

The new combination MMRV vaccine protects against four common childhood illnesses in a single vaccine. These illnesses can lead to serious complications such as encephalitis (brain inflammation), meningitis (infection of the tissues surrounding the brain), congenital rubella syndrome (can cause severe malformations in babies born to mothers infected with rubella during pregnancy) and bacterial skin infections (can cause scarring).

What has changed?

MMRV will be given to children at 18 months of age. It has replaced the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine previously given to four year olds, and the varicella vaccine (for chickenpox) given to 18 month olds. The vaccine will be available from 1 July 2013. You do not need a prescription; just make an appointment with your doctor or immunisation clinic.

Under the National Immunisation Program, the new schedule for vaccination against these diseases will be:

  • 12 months of age: measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • 18 months of age: measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (MMRV)
  • 4 years of age: children will still require a vaccine to protect against other serious infections including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio.

Why is it important to immunise my child against these illnesses?

Immunisation is the safest and most effective way of protecting children and adults against harmful diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox), before they come into contact with them in the community.

While the incidence of these diseases has been greatly reduced through immunisation, infection still exists causing a range of serious health complications, and unfortunately in some cases death can occur. Although these diseases are well controlled in Australia, international travel or contact with overseas visitors to Australia means that transmission of these diseases, particularly measles, can still occur in the community.

Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism to build resistance to specific infections, not only protecting individuals, but increasing the community’s level of immunity. This helps to reduce the spread of infection and the level of infectious diseases in the community.

What if my child has already had chickenpox?

It is important that children who have been infected with varicella (chickenpox) prior to 18 months of age still receive the MMRV vaccination. There is no known increase in adverse events from vaccinating children who have pre-existing immunity to one or more of the vaccine components, including varicella. There has been a decrease in varicella infection in the community since the introduction of the varicella vaccine to the National Immunisation Program in 2005.

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Why has the second dose of MMR been moved to 18 months?

With the introduction of the MMRV vaccine, children will receive two-dose protection against measles, mumps, and rubella at 18 months of age, instead of at four years of age under the previous schedule. This change ensures that a child is fully protected much earlier and reduces the likelihood of getting the disease if they are exposed to an infected person. As the MMRV vaccine provides protection against four childhood illnesses in a single vaccine, the number of injections a child receives is reduced by one.

What if my child has already received their 18 month old varicella vaccine?

From 1 July 2013, children who have already received their 18 month old varicella vaccination (for chickenpox) will still be immunised again for measles, mumps and rubella at four years of age, as a part of a transitional catch-up arrangement. This will remain until all children aged between 18 months and four years of age as at 1 July 2013 reach four years of age – that is, 31 December 2015.

How does my child’s immunisation status affect my eligibility for the Family Tax Benefit Part-A supplement?

Parents now need to have had their children fully immunised during the financial years that each child turns one, two and five years of age to obtain the Family Tax Benefit Part-A supplement for that period. To meet the immunisation requirements, children will need to be ‘fully immunised1’, be on a recognised catch up schedule, or have an approved exemption.

What do I need to do?

You should make an appointment with your doctor or immunisation clinic to schedule your child’s MMRV vaccination. This appointment should be on or soon after the date when your child turns 18 months of age to ensure maximum protection.

Are there side effects from receiving the MMRV vaccine?

Like most vaccinations, the MMRV vaccine can cause some mild side effects but severe reactions are rare. Possible side effects include low grade fever, sleepiness, restlessness or irritability; redness, soreness or swelling where the needle was given; or less commonly, a rash that looks like chickenpox or measles can occur. Your child cannot get measles, mumps, rubella or varicella from the vaccine.

Additional side effects for this vaccine include fever in some children. Fever after vaccination can lead to febrile convulsions in a young child. The MMRV vaccine is associated with a slight increase in the rate of febrile convulsions however, this is a relatively common response to fever of any cause in young children, particularly those aged under three, and is not life threatening. Making sure your child has their first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 months of age greatly reduces the chance of a febrile convulsion at 18 months of age after the MMRV vaccine.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine, you should contact your doctor, immunisation provider or local Department of Health.

Further information

More information on the MMRV vaccine or the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella diseases is available from the Immunise Australia Program Infoline on 1800 671 811 or the Immunise Australia Program website

Note: All information in this publication is correct as at 1 May 2013.

1 To have a status of ‘fully immunised’, children must receive the required vaccinations as listed under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and be recorded in the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR).

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Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella - Information for parents - Non-English

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