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Measles, mumps, rubella vaccine

The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is a "3-in-1" vaccine. It protects against measles , mumps , and rubella . These are serious diseases that can be life-threatening.

Alternative Names

Vaccine - MMR; Immunization - MMR; Rubella vaccination; Mumps vaccination; Measles - mumps - rubella vaccine

Information

Measles, mumps, and rubella are illnesses that are each caused by a virus.

The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is called MMR for short. The vaccine contains live but very weak viruses of the three diseases. After receiving the shot, the viruses cause a harmless infection. Usually there are no symptoms or the symptoms are mild.

After getting the vaccine, the body learns to attack the measles, mumps, or rubella virus if the person is exposed to it. As a result, it is unlikely the person will get sick with any of the three diseases.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE

Infants

MMR is one of the recommended childhood vaccines. Nearly all states require proof that a child has received MMR before starting school.

Children should get two doses (shots) of MMR at each of the following ages:

  • 12 to 15 months
  • 4 to 6 years

Your health care provider may recommend that your child receive a vaccine that combines MMR with the chickenpox (VAR) vaccine. Your health care provider can tell you if this vaccine is right for your child.

Adults

Adults 18 years old or who were born after 1956 should get at least one dose (shot) of the MMR vaccine if:

  • They have never received an MMR shot
  • They are not sure whether or when they received an MMR shot
  • They have never had any of the three diseases

Adults born during or before 1956 are protected because they likely had the actual diseases during childhood.

Women who can become pregnant and who have not had the MMR vaccine in the past should have a blood test to see if they are protected (immune). If they are not immune, they should receive the MMR vaccine. Women should not receive this vaccine if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant within the next 4 weeks. The vaccine may harm the baby.

WHO SHOULD NOT GET THIS VACCINE

  • Persons who received a dose of MMR and developed an allergy from it.
  • Persons who are severely allergic to the antibiotic neomycin (MMR contains a tiny amount of neomycin). 
  • Women who are pregnant (women should not become pregnant within 1 month of receiving MMR).
  • Persons with a weakened immune system due to certain cancers and their treatment, HIV, steroid medicines, or other medicines that suppress the immune system.
  • Persons who are ill with something more severe than a cold or have a fever should reschedule their vaccination until after they are recovered.

Persons should check with their health care provider about the proper time to get MMR if they have:

  • Received blood or platelet transfusions
  • Received other blood products (including gamma globulin)
  • Low platelet counts

RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS

Most persons who get MMR have no problems from it. Others may have mild problems such as soreness and redness where the shot was given or a low fever. More severe problems from MMR are rare.

If a rash or swelling of the cheek or neck glands develops without other symptoms, no treatment is needed. The symptoms should go away within several days.

Severe side effects may include:

  • Allergic reaction (rare)
  • Long-term seizure, brain damage, or deafness (so rare that it is unlikely the vaccine is the cause)

There is no proof that the MMR vaccine is linked to the development of autism.

No vaccine works all of the time. It is still possible, though unlikely, to get measles, mumps, or rubella even after receiving all doses (shots) of MMR.

CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IF:

  • You are not sure if a person should get MMR
  • Mild or serious symptoms develop after getting the vaccine
  • You have questions or concerns about the vaccine

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years and Adults Aged 19 Years and Older - United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(Suppl1):1-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/safety/default.htm. Accessed April 19, 2013.

DeStefano F, Price CS, Weintraub ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. J Pediatr. 2013; DOI10.1016/j.peds.2013.02.001.

Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review Committee. Imunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.

Orenstein WA, Atkinson WL. Immunization. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

Updated: 2/21/2013

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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