MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) Vaccine
What You Need to Know
Why get vaccinated?
Measles, mumps, and rubella are viral diseases that can have serious consequences. Before vaccines, these diseases were very common in the United States, especially among children. They are still common in many parts of the world.
- Measles virus causes symptoms that can include fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes, commonly followed by a rash that covers the whole body.
- Measles can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, and infection of the lungs (pneumonia). Rarely, measles can cause brain damage or death.
- Mumps virus causes fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides.
- Mumps can lead to deafness, swelling of the brain and/or spinal cord covering (encephalitis or meningitis), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and, very rarely, death.
Rubella (also known as German Measles)
- Rubella virus causes fever, sore throat, rash, headache, and eye irritation.
- Rubella can cause arthritis in up to half of teenage and adult women.
- If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.
These diseases can easily spread from person to person. Measles doesn’t even require personal contact. You can get measles by entering a room that a person with measles left up to 2 hours before.
Vaccines and high rates of vaccination have made these diseases much less common in the United States.
Children should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine, usually:
- First dose: 12 through 15 months of age
- Second dose: 4 through 6 years of age
Infants who will be traveling outside the United States when they are between 6 and 11 months of age should get a dose of MMR vaccine before travel. This can provide temporary protection from measles infection, but will not give permanent immunity. The child should still get 2 doses at the recommended ages for long-lasting protection.
Adults might also need MMR vaccine. Many adults 18 years of age and older might be susceptible to measles, mumps, and rubella without knowing it.
A third dose of MMR might be recommended in certain mumps outbreak situations.
There are no known risks to getting MMR vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.
Some people should not get this vaccine
Tell your vaccine provider if the person getting the vaccine:
- Has any severe, life-threatening allergies. A person who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of MMR vaccine, or has a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, may be advised not to be vaccinated. Ask your health care provider if you want information about vaccine components.
- Is pregnant, or thinks she might be pregnant. Pregnant women should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they are no longer pregnant. Women should avoid getting pregnant for at least 1 month after getting MMR vaccine.
- Has a weakened immune system due to disease (such as cancer or HIV/AIDS) or medical treatments (such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy).
- Has a parent, brother, or sister with a history of immune system problems.
- Has ever had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily.
- Has recently had a blood transfusion or received other blood products. You might be advised to postpone MMR vaccination for 3 months or more.
- Has tuberculosis.
- Has gotten any other vaccines in the past 4 weeks. Live vaccines given too close together might not work as well.
- Is not feeling well. A mild illness, such as a cold, is usually not a reason to postpone a vaccination. Someone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait. Your doctor can advise you.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of reactions. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps, or rubella disease. Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any problems with it.
After MMR vaccination, a person might experience:
- Sore arm from the injection
- Redness or rash at the injection site
- Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck
If these events happen, they usually begin within 2 weeks after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
- Seizure (jerking or staring) often associated with fever
- Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women
- Temporary low platelet count, which can cause unusual bleeding or bruising
- Rash all over body
Severe events occur very rarely:
- Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
- Brain damage
Other things that could happen after this vaccine:
- People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
- Some people get shoulder pain that can be more severe and longer-lasting than routine soreness that can follow injections. This happens very rarely.
- Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions to a vaccine are estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/.
What if there is a serious problem?
What should I look for?
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or unusual behavior.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your health care provider.
Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor should file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.