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Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)Vaccine

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

  • 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 whose immune systems don't work well.

  • Mumps. Mumps is also caused by a virus. It affects the glands. Swollen saliva-producing glands in the neck, fever, headache, and muscle aches are symptoms. It can affect the testicles in males as well as cause other complications.

  • Rubella (German measles). Rubella is an infection caused by 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, but also against chicken pox (varicella).

When are MMR vaccines given?

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

  • 12 to 15 months

  • 4 to 6 years

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

Children with mild illnesses, even with fevers, can get the vaccine.

Some children should not receive 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 medications that weaken the immune system, such as steroids

Your child's health care provider will advise you about vaccines in these and other situations.

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

What are the risks from MMR vaccines?

As with any medication, vaccines carry a small risk of serious harm, such as a severe allergic reaction or even death. Receiving a 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

Severe reactions are very rare.

How do I care for my child after immunization with MMR vaccines?

Give your child over-the-counter pain and fever-lowering medicine, as instructed by your child's health care provider. Do not give your child aspirin.

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

  • High fever

  • Changes in behavior

  • Seizures

  • Trouble breathing


Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 8/25/2014
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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