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Immunization

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

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​​​​​​​​​​Immunization protects you from disease.
​​Get protected, get immunized.

  • Vaccines make your immune system stronger. They build antibodies to help prevent diseases.
  • Immunization is safe. It's much safer to get immunized than to get this disease.​

What is the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine protects against the diseases measles, mumps, and rubella.

Who should have the MMR vaccine?

The following people should have this vaccine:

  • children starting at age 12 months who aren’t getting MMR-Var (the MMR and chickenpox vaccines together)
  • younger babies who are age 6 to 11 months with certain health problems, who are travelling to areas with measles outbreaks, or are contacts of measles cases
  • adults and children whose immunization records don’t show they’ve had the recommended number of doses of measles, mumps, or rubella vaccines
  • some people who are having a bone marrow transplant

How many doses do I need?

Children – measles, mumps, rubella:
Children need 2 doses. They usually get the first dose at age 12 months and the second at age 4 years. This is usually given combined with the chickenpox vaccine (MMR-Var).

Any doses you get before you’re age 12 months don’t count as part of the 2 doses.

Adults - Measles and Mumps:

  • Adults born in 1970 or later need 2 doses of measles and mumps vaccine.
  • Adults born before 1970 are usually considered protected for measles and mumps and don’t need this vaccine.

    Exceptions: healthcare workers and post-secondary healthcare students need 2 doses of measles and mumps vaccine. Other post-secondary students and people who travel to areas with a high risk of measles need 1 dose of measles vaccine.
  • People having a transplant should check with their healthcare provider to know how many doses they need.

Rubella:

  • Adults born in 1957 or later need at least 1 dose of rubella vaccine.
  • Adults born before 1957 are usually considered protected for rubella and don’t need this vaccine. Exceptions: healthcare workers, child daycare workers, and adults with certain health problems need at least 1 dose of rubella vaccine.
  • In some situations, adults may get a second dose of rubella vaccine if a blood test shows they aren’t protected.

Are there other vaccines that protect against measles, mumps, and rubella?

The MMR-Var vaccine protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox) together.

How well does the vaccine work?

After 1 dose, protection is estimated to be:

  • 85% to 95% for measles (2 doses: almost 100%)
  • 62% to 91% for mumps (2 doses: 76% to 95%)
  • more than 95% for rubella

Where can I get the MMR vaccine?

You can get the vaccine at a public health office in your area.

Are there side effects from the MMR vaccine?

There can be side effects from the MMR vaccine. They tend to be mild and go away in a few days, but side effects can happen up to 6 weeks after having this vaccine. They may include:

  • redness, swelling, or feeling sore where you had the needle
  • getting upset easily
  • fever
  • body aches or sore joints
  • vomiting or loose stool (diarrhea)
  • sore throat, cough, or runny nose
  • earache
  • red eyes
  • a blochy, red rash (like measles) or a rash with red, raised bumps (like rubella)

It’s important to stay at the clinic for 15 minutes after your vaccine. Some people may have a rare but serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you will get medicine to treat the symptoms.

It’s rare to have a serious side effect after a vaccine. Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects.

How can I manage side effects?

  • To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle.
  • There is medicine to help with fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you aren’t sure what medicine or dosage to take. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Children under the age of 18 years should not take aspirin because it can cause serious health problems.
  • Some people with health problems, such as a weak immune system, must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you’ve been told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from the vaccine.
  • The rashes you could get after this vaccine aren’t contagious (you can’t spread them to others).

Who should not have the MMR vaccine?

You may not be able to have the vaccine if you:

  • have an allergy to parts of the vaccine
  • had a severe or unusual side effect after this vaccine or one like it
  • have a weak immune system (due to medicine or a health problem) or a family history of a weak immune system
  • had a blood product in the past 12 months
  • had another live vaccine in the past 6 weeks
  • are pregnant

Check with your doctor or a public health nurse before you get the vaccine.

You can still have the vaccine if you have a mild illness, such as a cold or fever. Always tell your healthcare provider if you have allergies or if you’ve had a side effect from a vaccine in the past.

If you’re planning to get pregnant, you need to wait 1 month after having this vaccine before you start trying to get pregnant.

Facts about measles, mumps, and rubella

What is measles?
Measles is a virus that spreads easily through the air when someone who has measles coughs or sneezes. It can cause:

  • a high fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red eyes
  • a blotchy, red rash

Measles can be dangerous because:

  • One in 10 people with measles will get middle ear or lung infections.
  • One in 1000 people with measles will get encephalitis (infection of the brain), which can lead to seizures, deafness, or brain damage.
  • One to 2 of every 1,000 people with measles could die.

Go to the measles page on MyHealth.Alberta.ca to find out more.

What is mumps?
Mumps is a virus that spreads by coughing, sneezing, or contact with saliva (such as kissing or sharing toys). You can have no symptoms but still spread mumps. It can cause:

  • fever
  • headache
  • swelling of the glands around your jaw
  • swelling of the testicles or ovaries
  • deafness
  • encephalitis (infection of the brain)

Go to the mumps page on MyHealth.Alberta.ca to find out more.

What is rubella?
Rubella is a virus that spreads by coughing or sneezing. It’s usually mild. It can cause:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • swollen neck glands
  • rash with red, raised bumps
  • painful, swollen joints
  • encephalitis (infection of the brain)
  • a bleeding disorder

If you get rubella while you are pregnant, it can cause a miscarriage or the baby may be born with disabilities.

Go to the rubella page on MyHealth.Alberta.ca to find out more.

More information

Current as of: August 6, 2020

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services