What Are Measles, Mumps, and Rubella?

Measles is a viral infection that can cause rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever. It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.

Mumps is a viral infection that can result in fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and swollen glands. It can lead to deafness, infection of the brain and spinal cord covering, painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and sterility.

Rubella is a viral infection that can result in a rash, mild fever, or arthritis. Pregnant women who have rubella are at increased risk for miscarriage. Their babies may be born with severe birth defects.

What Is the Measles, Mumps, RubellaVaccine?

The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine consists of 3 live viruses made in chicken embryo cells. The viruses found in the vaccine have been made harmless during the manufacturing process.

The vaccine is given under the skin.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

All children with few exceptions should receive the vaccine twice:

  • Once at 12-15 months
  • Once at 4-6 years (school entry)—the vaccine can be given earlier, but the 2 doses must be separated by at least 4 weeks

The vaccine can also be given to infants younger than 12 months but older than 6 months, who will be traveling internationally. These infants should also get the 2 routine shots at ages 12-15 months and 4-6 years.

Adults born after 1956 who have not been previously vaccinated may need at least 1 dose. Talk with your doctor if you were not previously vaccinated.

What Are the Risks Associated With the MMR Vaccine?

The majority of people who get the vaccine do not have any side effects. The most common side effects are a fever and a rash 1-2 weeks after vaccination. Redness and swelling at the injection site may occur. Rare complications include:

  • Severe, life-threatening allergic reaction—anaphylaxis
  • Deafness
  • Seizures—in children inclined to have febrile seizures
  • Permanent brain damage

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

In some cases, the vaccine should be delayed, such as:

  • People who are very sick
  • Women who are planning to become pregnant or those who are pregnant

Most children and teens should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, certain groups should not be vaccinated:

  • People with immune system disorders—If you have HIV and are doing well, you should consider getting the vaccine. Measles can be fatal if you have HIV.
  • People being treated with drugs that affect the immune system
  • People who have cancer or are being treated for cancer with radiation or drugs
  • People with a low platelet count should talk to their doctor about whether to get the vaccine
  • People who have received another vaccine within the past 4 weeks
  • People who have had a recent transfusion or who have received other blood products should talk to their doctor about whether to get the vaccine
  • Pregnant women—Avoid becoming pregnant for at least 1 month after getting the vaccine
  • Previous severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or its components

What Other Ways Can Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Be Prevented?

If you have measles, mumps, or rubella, you should be isolated to stop the virus from spreading by staying at home until the virus is over. Notify others you have been in contact with that they may have been exposed to the virus.

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

A case of the measles, mumps, or rubella needs to be reported to public health authorities. If you think you or your child has the measles, mumps, or rubella, call the doctor right away.

Anyone who may have been exposed and has not been fully immunized will need to receive the vaccine.

Revision Information