What are measles, mumps and rubella?
Measles, mumps, and rubella are highly contagious viral diseases that have the potential to be very serious. They can be spread through contact with an infected person through the air.
The measles virus causes fever, cough, runny nose, pink eye, and rash. If the measles virus infects the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Some older children infected with the virus will suffer from inflammation of the brain which can cause seizures and permanent brain damage.
The mumps virus usually causes fever, headache, and swollen glands. It can lead to deafness, meningitis, painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries and, rarely, death.
Rubella, also known as German measles, causes rash, low-grade fever, and arthritis. If a pregnant woman gets rubella she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.
What is the MMR vaccine?
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is a recommended childhood vaccine. This three-in-one vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, and is required for children to enter school in most states. Children need two doses of the vaccine, while adults who need it should get at least one dose.
Who should get the MMR vaccine?
Children should get the first dose of MMR vaccine at 12-15 months of age, and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. Children can actually get the second dose at any age, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.
Adults who have not been vaccinated nor had the diseases, or don't know if they've been vaccinated or had the diseases, and who meet any of the following criteria, should get at least one dose:
- Adults born after 1957
- Work in a medical facility
- Women planning to or who may become pregnant, however women should avoid getting pregnant within 4 weeks of getting the MMR vaccine
Who should not get the MMR vaccine?
Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or to a previous dose of MMR vaccine should not get this vaccine.
Anyone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait until they recover before getting the vaccine.
Pregnant women should wait to get their MMR vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should avoid getting pregnant for four weeks after getting the MMR vaccine.
Anyone with the following characteristics should check with their healthcare provider about whether they should get the MMR vaccine:
- Has HIV/AIDS, or another disease that affects the immune system
- Being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for two 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)
What are the side effects of the MMR vaccine?
- Fever, rash, and seizures
- Swollen glands in the cheeks or neck
- Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints
- Temporary low blood platelet count
Severe problems (rare):
- Permanent brain damage
- Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.
It's extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, seek immediate medical attention.
The MMR vaccine is available at:
Healthcare Clinic for patients aged 7+.1
Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.
Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.
Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.
Vaccine Information Statement: MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) Vaccine (What You Need to Know) April 20, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-mmr.pdf. Accessed April 2013.
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This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.