Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against three viral infections that can cause severe illness and significant long-term medical problems.

Measles is a respiratory infection that causes flu-like symptoms, rash, and ear infection. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and brain damage. Mumps infection causes fever, headache, and swollen glands (e.g., salivary glands) and can lead to deafness, meningitis, and in boys, painful swelling of the testicles. Rubella, which is also called German measles, affects the skin and the lymph nodes and may cause complications, such as arthritis and birth defects (if infection occurs during pregnancy).

MMR should not be given to children with allergies to eggs, gelatin, or neomycin. It also should not be given to children who have received gamma globulin; or who are taking prednisone, steroids, or immunosuppressive drugs; or who have leukemia, lymphoma, or other cancers; or to children who are being treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

Immunization schedule—MMR is administered as follows:

  • Dose 1 at 12–15 months of age
  • Dose 2 at 4–6 years of age (before entering school)

Although measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, it is still common throughout the world, In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 189 U.S. cases of measles in 2013—and 288 cases from January 1 to May 23, 2014. According to the CDC, 2014 represented the largest number of measles cases in the first 5 months of any year since 1994. Exposure to the measles virus can occur through travel and the virus spreads easily in people who have not been properly vaccinated against the disease.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015