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).
MMR vaccines are given in 2 doses to babies and children at these recommended ages:
12 to 15 months
4 to 6 years
For teens who did not get the shots at the recommended ages, 2 doses are given as catch-up. The second dose will be given at least 4 weeks after the first.
Children with mild illnesses may still get the vaccine. But if a child is moderately or severely ill, it's generally best to wait. Always talk with your child's healthcare provider for directions.
Some children should not get the MMR vaccine. These may 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
Some children taking medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids
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 get the MMR vaccine. After the baby is delivered, 1 dose of vaccine is advised before being discharged home for women who don't have evidence of immunity.
Nonpregnant adults who don't have evidence of immunity to measles, mumps, or rubella, should be vaccinated as recommended. At least 1 dose is advised. Some people may need 2 doses.
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
Swollen neck glands
Give your child over-the-counter pain and fever-lowering medicine, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Don't give your child aspirin or any product containing aspirin to prevent a serious condition called Reye syndrome.
If your child has symptoms of a severe reaction, which are usually rare, call 911 or get emergency medical help. These symptoms include:
Changes in behavior
Rash all over the body