MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), is a vaccination against three diseases once common in children. Despite the vaccination programs in place, all three diseases still exist in the United States, though in reduced numbers.

Why vaccinate with MMR?

The MMR vaccination protects against three of the more serious diseases affecting children:

  • Measles is a virus that starts out as a rash and common cold symptoms. If left untreated, brain damage and death can occur.
  • Mumps, also a virus, also starts out with common cold or flu symptoms, including muscle pain and fever. The disease can progress to cause deafness and sterility.
  • Rubella, another virus, can cause low-grade fever and arthritis in women. If infected during pregnancy, severe birth defects or miscarriage can occur.

Vaccination Schedule

Your child will receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is typically administered between one year and 15 months of age. The second dose is given between years 4 and 6, though the second dose can be given earlier as long as 28 days have passed since the first dose.

If your child is traveling outside of the United States before 12 months of age, talk to your pediatrician about the MMR vaccine. In this case, a dose may be given prior to 12 months but it will not count as part of the routine vaccination series.

Your doctor may choose to give the MMRV vaccine in place of the traditional MMR. MMRV is a combination of MMR and Varicella vaccinations.

Risks of the Vaccination

According to the CDC, there are three stages of possible side effects after the MMR vaccine. Mild reactions include fever, rash or swelling of glands in the neck or cheeks. Moderate reactions can include seizures, reduced platelet count or stiffness/pain in joints. Severe reactions like deafness, coma or severe allergic reactions may also occur, though only in extremely rare cases.

Signs Your Child Should Wait to Get Vaccinated

Pregnant women and children who are sick should not receive the MMR vaccine. It is important for women to prevent pregnancy for four weeks after having the MMR shot. Children and adults with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccinations, including the MMR and MMRV vaccinations, should tell the doctor about the allergic reactions. 

Can Older Children/Adults be Vaccinated?

Older children and adults can be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

What Should I Do If My Child Has a Reaction?

If you or your child has a reaction to the MMR vaccine, contact the physician. This is especially important if the reaction is severe. Severe reactions can cause wheezing, hives, rash, swelling of the throat, trouble breathing and death.