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Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine   

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects people from 3 serious viral diseases. The diseases are spread from direct contact with droplets from sneezes or coughs of persons with the viruses.

  • Measles. Measles is an infection caused by a virus. It starts with cold-like symptoms including runny nose; inflamed, red eyes; cough; and fever. A rash that starts on the face and then develops on the body follows 2 to 4 days later. It can result in serious complications, especially in those with weak immune systems.

  • Mumps. Mumps is also caused by a virus. It mainly affects the glands. Symptoms are swollen saliva-producing glands in the neck, fever, headache, and muscle aches. A feared complication is that it can affect the testicles in males and cause sterility. It can also cause other serious complications.

  • Rubella (German measles). Rubella is an infection from a virus. It causes mild fever and rash in infants and children. Pregnant women who get rubella have an increased chance of having babies with birth defects.

A combination vaccine provides protection against all 3 diseases. Another vaccine, the MMRV, protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, and also against chicken pox (varicella).

When are MMR vaccines given?

MMR vaccines are given in 2 doses to babies and children at these ages:

  • 12 to 15 months

  • 4 to 6 years

  • 7 to 18 years, if 2 doses were not previously given

Children with mild illnesses may still get the vaccine. But if a child is moderately or severely ill, it is generally best to wait. Always talk with your child's healthcare provider for instruction.

Some children should not get the MMR vaccine. These include:

  • Children who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to gelatin or to the antibiotic neomycin

  • Children who have had a previous serious reaction to the MMR vaccine

  • Some children with immune system conditions such as HIV/AIDS or cancer

  • Children taking medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids

  • Children with a weakened immune system from disease or medical treatments

  • Children who have had other vaccines in the last 4 weeks

  • Children who have had a recent blood transfusion or had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily

Your child's healthcare provider will advise you about vaccines in these and other cases.

Pregnant women, or women who plan to become pregnant within a month, should not receive the MMR vaccine. 

What are the risks of MMR vaccines?

Vaccines are usually very safe. But they carry a small risk of side effects, such as an allergic reaction. Getting an MMR vaccine is much safer than contracting any of the 3 diseases. Common reactions to these vaccines may include the following:

  • Soreness where the shot (injection) was given

  • Fever

  • Mild rash

  • Swollen neck glands

How do I care for my child after the MMR vaccines?

Give your child over-the-counter pain and fever-lowering medicine, as instructed by your child's healthcare provider. Don't give your child aspirin.

If your child has symptoms of a severe reaction, which are usually rare, call 911 or get emergency medical help. These symptoms include:

  • High fever

  • Changes in behavior

  • Seizures

  • Trouble breathing

  • Rash all over the body

Medical Reviewers:

  • Barry Zingman MD
  • L Renee Watson MSN RN
  • Rita Sather RN