Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine

ByMargot L. Savoy, MD, MPH, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
Reviewed/Revised Apr 2024

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is a combination vaccine that helps protect against these 3 serious viral infections. The vaccine contains live but weakened measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. The combination vaccine is used because anyone who needs protection against one of these infections also needs protection against the other two. Separate vaccines are not available.

These infections can cause serious problems:

  • Measles causes a rash, fever, and cough. It affects mainly children and can be very serious. It can lead to brain damage, pneumonia, and sometimes death.

  • Mumps causes the salivary glands to swell and become painful. Mumps can affect the testes, brain, and pancreas, especially in adults. Mumps is more serious in adults.

  • Rubella (German measles) causes a runny nose, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash with a light reddening of the skin, especially the face. In adults, it may cause joint pain. If pregnant women get rubella, they may miscarry, the fetus may die, or the baby may have very severe birth defects.

The MMR vaccine and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine are also available as a combined vaccine (MMRV vaccine).

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine information statement.

(See also Overview of Immunization.)

Administration of MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine is given as an injection under the skin.

As a part of routine childhood vaccinations, 2 doses are given: at age 12 to 15 months and typically at age 4 to 6 years.

All adults who were born in or after 1957 should be given one dose of the vaccine unless they have documentation of vaccination with one or more doses of MMR or unless laboratory tests show they are immune.

Birth before 1957 is generally considered sufficient evidence of immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella, except for health care workers. Health care workers are vaccinated or have laboratory tests done to check for evidence of immunity.

Rubella infection during pregnancy can have severe consequences for the fetus such as miscarriage or severe birth defects. Therefore, all women who could become pregnant, regardless of their birth year, should be tested for immunity to rubella. If women have no evidence of immunity, those who are not pregnant should be vaccinated, and pregnant women should be vaccinated promptly after the pregnancy is completed.

Adults who are likely to be exposed to these infections should get a second dose of the vaccine. These people include those who

  • Were born in 1957 or later who work in health care and who are not already immune to measles, mumps, and rubella

  • Go to college or other educational institutions after high school

  • Travel internationally

  • Have HIV infection (unless their immune system is severely weakened) and are not already immune to measles, mumps, and rubella

A second dose of the MMR vaccine should also be given to people who live in the same house as a person with a severely weakened immune system.

Certain other conditions may affect whether and when people are vaccinated (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).

If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves.

(See CDC: Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule by Age and CDC: Recommendations for Ages 19 Years or Older.)

Side Effects of MMR Vaccine

Some people have mild side effects, such as a fever, a general feeling of illness (malaise), and a rash. Joints may become temporarily stiff and painful in adults, usually in women.

Evidence indicates that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism (see also Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and concerns about autism and CDC: Autism and Vaccines).

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine information statement

  2. CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated with these Vaccines?

  3. CDC: Autism and Vaccines

  4. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): Measles: Recommended vaccinations

  5. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): Mumps: Recommended vaccinations

  6. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): Rubella: Recommended vaccinations

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