Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on March 26, 2024
5 min read

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children. It protects against three serious illnesses:

  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (also known as the German measles)

It is a two-part vaccination, and in most states, you must prove your children have gotten it before they can enter school. If you are an adult who has not had the vaccination or the diseases, you may need the MMR shot, too.

Is MMR a live vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is a live vaccine, which means it contains a harmless, less powerful version of the infections that it protects you from. 

Measles, mumps, and rubella are viral diseases. They can be very serious.

Measles starts with a fever, cough ing, a runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and a red, pinpoint rash that starts on your face and spreads to the rest of your body. If the virus infects your lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Measles can also lead to inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, which can cause seizures and brain damage.

The mumps virus usually causes swelling in the glands on one or both sides of the face. It also causes flu-like symptoms. If the virus spreads to other tissues in your body, it can cause swollen ovaries or testicles, swelling in the brain or spinal cord (encephalitis or meningitis), and hearing loss.

Rubella is also known as German measles. It can cause a mild rash on the face, swelling of glands behind the ears, and in some cases, swelling of the small joints and a low-grade fever. Most children recover quickly with no lasting effects. If you get it when you're pregnant, it could cause a miscarriage or congenital (from birth) disorders such as heart problems, deafness, learning problems, and low birth weight.

The CDC says that everyone should get the MMR vaccine. You usually get the vaccine when you're a child. If you didn't have it, you may need to get it as an adult. 

Talk to your doctor about it if:

  • You're a health care worker.
  • You are planning to or might become pregnant.
  • You are traveling internationally.

You shouldn't have the shot if:

  • You have a severe allergic reaction after the first MMR shot.
  • You are allergic to gelatin or neomycin.
  • You may be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant in the next 4 weeks. (The vaccine is safe if you are breastfeeding.)
  • Your immune system is weak because of cancer drugs, corticosteroids, or AIDS.

If you were born before 1957, you also probably don't need the vaccine. Measles, mumps, and rubella were so widespread then that you are likely immune. But you should be sure to ask your doctor about this.

MMR vaccine schedule

Children should get the first shot when they're 12 to 15 months of age and the second one between 4 and 6 years of age. Adults who aren't immune and haven't been vaccinated should get two shots 28 days apart.

Once you get your shots, you won't need any more, as the vaccine lasts your lifetime. 

You can usually get an MMR vaccine at:

  • Your doctor’s office
  • Pharmacies
  • Community health clinics or health departments
  • Schools

Your state health department can also provide information on where to get the MMR vaccine in your area

MMR vaccine price

If you are covered by a private health insurance plan, such as through your employer, most of them will not charge you for the MMR vaccine. If you’re an adult and covered by Medicare, the vaccine cost should cost little or be free. If you have Medicaid, the vaccine would be free for your children, but depending on what state you live in, adults may be charged a copay. 

If you do not have health insurance, your state’s health department or health centers funded by the federal government can  provide the MMR vaccine either for free or at a low cost.

You might not have any side effects. Or you might have minor soreness and redness where you got the shot. You can also have:

  • Skin rash
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the cheeks, jaw, and neck
  • Aching, stiff joints

Over the years, some have suggested that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism spectrum disorder. The CDC stands firm that there's no evidence to support that idea, and dozens of studies have concluded there is no connection. The benefits that the vaccine brings in disease prevention far outweigh any potential risks.

MMR vaccine rash

In response to the measles portion of the vaccine, it is fairly common for you or your child to get a rash 7-11 days after the shot. 

Very rarely, in response to the rubella portion of the vaccine, you or your child may get a rash with small spots that look like bruises. This can happen about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine.

The MMR vaccine protects you against measles, mumps, and rubella. These diseases can make you very sick, which is why everyone should get the vaccine. Serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare.

 What is the difference between the MR and MMR vaccines?

The MMR vaccine covers three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The MR vaccine covers two of the diseases: measles and rubella.

Can you still get measles after the MMR vaccine?

About 95% of people who have received the first shot are protected from catching measles. And if both injections are given, 99% of people are protected. This means about 1 in 100 people may still contract measles after receiving both shots of the MMR vaccine.

What is the new vaccine for MMR?

In 2022, a new version of the MMR vaccine came out called Priorix. It's made by a different company than the original vaccine. The ingredients differ slightly, they are offer the same amount of protection. This new vaccine is only licensed for children between the ages of 1 and 12.