Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccines: What You Need to Know
Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See www.immunize.org/vis.
Why get vaccinated?
Measles, mumps, and rubella are serious diseases.
- Measles virus causes rash, cough, runny nose, eye irritation, and fever.
- It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring), brain damage, and death.
- Mumps virus causes fever, headache, and swollen glands.
- It can lead to deafness, meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord covering), painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and, rarely, death.
Rubella (German Measles)
- Rubella virus causes rash, mild fever, and arthritis (mostly in 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.
You or your child could catch these diseases by being around someone who has them. They spread from person to person through the air.
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can prevent these diseases.
Most children who get their MMR shots will not get these diseases. Many more children would get them if we stopped vaccinating.
Who should get MMR vaccine and when?
Children should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine:
- The first at 12-15 months of age
- and the second at 4-6 years of age.
These are the recommended ages. But children can get the second dose at any age, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.
Some adults should also get MMR vaccine:
Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older, who was born after 1956, should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have had either the vaccines or the diseases.
Ask your provider for more information.
MMR vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Note: A “combination” vaccine called MMRV, which contains both MMR and Varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, may be given instead of the two individual vaccines to people 12 years of age and younger.
Some people should not get MMR vaccine or should wait
Ask your provider for more information.
- People should not get MMR vaccine who have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or to a previous dose of MMR vaccine.
- People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting MMR vaccine.
- Pregnant women should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should avoid getting pregnant for 4 weeks after getting MMR vaccine.
- Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get MMR vaccine, including anyone who:
- Has HIV/AIDS, or another disease that affects the immune system
- Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer
- Has any kind of cancer
- Is taking cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
- Has ever had a low platelet count (a blood disorder)
- People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get MMR vaccine
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting any of these three diseases.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any problems with it.
- Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
- Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
- Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (rare)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
- Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
- Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
- Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
- Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
- Several other severe problems have been known to occur after a child gets MMR vaccine. But this happens so rarely, experts cannot be sure whether they are caused by the vaccine or not. These include:
- Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
- Permanent brain damage
Note: The first dose of MMRV vaccine has been associated with rash and higher rates of fever than MMR and Varicella vaccines given separately. Rash has been reported in about 1 person in 20 and fever in about 1 person in 5.
Seizures caused by a fever are also reported more often after MMRV. These usually occur 5-12 days after the first dose.
What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
What should I look for?
Any unusual conditions, such as a serious allergic reaction, high fever or unusual behavior. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare with any vaccine. If one were to occur, it would most likely be within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. Signs can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. If a high fever or seizure were to occur, it would usually be within a week after the shot.
What should I do?
- Call a doctor or get the person to a doctor right away.
- Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
- Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form. Or you can file this report through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not provide medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
A federal program has been created to help people who may have been harmed by a vaccine.
For details about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visit the program's website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.
How can I learn more?
Ask your health care provider. They can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
Call your local or state health department's immunization program.
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
- Visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Vaccine Information Statement (Interim)
42 U.S.C. Section 300aa-26
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention content is free and public domain.
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