ALL
Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Immunization

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​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 who are going to have an organ transplant, who are travelling to areas where there is risk of measles, 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?

The number of doses you get of the MMR vaccine depends on your age and risk of contact with these diseases.

Children – Measles, Mumps, Rubella:
Children need 2 doses of an MMR vaccine. As of January 1, 2021, children get their first dose at age 12 months and the second at age 18 months. Children usually get a vaccine that’s combined with the chickenpox vaccine (MMR-Var).

If a child didn’t get an MMR or MMR-Var vaccine at 18 months, they’ll get it at age 4 years.

Any doses given before age 12 months don’t count towards the 2 doses that a child needs to protect them against these diseases.

Adults - Measles and Mumps:
Adults born in 1970 or later need 2 doses of measles and mumps vaccine.

Most adults born before 1970 are thought to be protected against measles and mumps, so they don’t need this vaccine. If you were born before this year, there is a high chance you had contact with these viruses when you were younger. This means your body will likely remember these viruses and attack them if you come into contact with them.

You may need extra protection if you have a high risk of contact because of where you work, where you travel, or, if you’re a student, what you study. If you’re born before 1970 and are:

  • a healthcare worker or post-secondary healthcare student - you need 2 doses of a measles and mumps vaccine
  • a post-secondary student (not in healthcare) – you need 1 dose of a measles and mumps vaccine
  • travelling to areas where there is risk of measles - you need 1 dose of a measles vaccine

Adults - Rubella:
Adults born in 1957 or later need at least 1 dose of rubella vaccine.

Most adults born before 1957 are thought to be protected against rubella and don’t need this vaccine. You may need extra protection if you have a high risk of contact because of where you work. You’ll need 1 or more doses of this vaccine if you’re born before 1957 and are a:

  • healthcare worker
  • child daycare worker

Your health care provider may also suggest you get a second dose of rubella vaccine if a blood test shows that you aren’t protected.

If you’re having a transplant, check with your healthcare provider to know how many doses of measles, mumps, and rubella you need.

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
  • a rash that may be measles-like (a blotchy red rash)

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 (because of a medicine you take 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: January 1, 2021

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services