Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine


Generic Name Brand Name
measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine M-M-R II, Priorix
measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (mmrv) vaccine Priorix-Tetra

How It Works

The vaccine helps your body make chemicals called antibodies to fight off the viruses. The vaccine is given as a shot (injection).

There is a measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV, or Priorix-Tetra) shot that also protects against chickenpox (varicella). Talk to your child's doctor or public health nurse about the pros and cons of the MMRV shot. It can be given to children age 12 and younger.

Why It Is Used

Measles , mumps , and rubella were once very common childhood illnesses in North America. Today, these illnesses are very rare because of widespread MMR immunization programs.

For children

Two doses are given to provide lifelong protection. The first shot is given at 12 months of age, and the second is usually given at around 18 months of age or later but before the child enters school.

Sometimes MMR shots are given before a child is 1 year of age, such as during a measles outbreak or if the child is travelling to an area where measles is common. In these cases, the child will receive two doses of the MMR vaccine after the child's first birthday. footnote 1

You can keep track of when your child received vaccines using the National Childhood Immunization Record (What is a PDF document?) or the Alberta childhood immunization record (What is a PDF document?) .

For adults

Adults born before 1970 generally are considered immune to measles and mumps. Adults born after 1970 who did not have measles or the vaccine should get one dose. If these adults born after 1970 do not have immunity and are likely to be in contact with measles, they should get two doses: footnote 1

  • Health care workers
  • University students
  • Travellers to parts of the world where there are measles
  • Military recruits

How Well It Works

One dose given at 12 or 15 months of age is about 85% to 95% effective. After the second dose is given, nearly 100% of children are protected for life.

Side Effects

Most people who get this vaccine do not have any problems. footnote 2, footnote 3 They may have:

  • Soreness, redness, and swelling where the shot was given.
  • Temporary pain or stiffness in the joints (usually affects women).

Mild reactions that may occur one to two weeks after getting the vaccine include:

  • Fever.
  • Mild rash.
  • Swollen glands in the cheeks or neck (this is a rare).

More serious reactions to these vaccines are uncommon. These include having a seizure caused by a fever, inflammation of the brain ( encephalitis ), and temporary low platelet count.

Even though serious allergic reactions are rare with this vaccine, call your doctor or local health unit right away if you or your child has trouble breathing, a high fever, or anything unusual after having the shot.

A child who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose should not get another dose of the vaccine. Tell your doctor or public health nurse if your child has had a severe reaction to any vaccine or has severe allergies.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

People with a mild illness, such as a cold, can get the vaccine. But if they are more ill, they should wait until they are better. If women get an MMR or MMRV vaccine, they should wait 4 weeks until getting pregnant.

Certain people should not get the vaccines: footnote 1, footnote 3

  • People with allergies to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin (people with gelatin allergy can receive the MMRV vaccine)
  • Pregnant women
  • People who had a severe reaction to the first dose of the vaccine

Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you: footnote 2

  • Have HIV or AIDS .
  • Have taken medicine, such as steroids, that affects your immune system for more than two weeks.
  • Have cancer.
  • Have ever had a low platelet count.
  • Have recently had a transfusion or received any blood products.

In the past, children with allergies to eggs were thought to be at high risk for serious reactions to the MMR vaccine because it is made with chick embryo cells. But recent studies have shown that the risk of allergic reaction from the MMR vaccine is extremely low for these people, and vaccination is recommended.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2006). Measles vaccine. In Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed., pp. 228–236. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Also available online:
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2003). Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines: What you need to know. Vaccine Information Statement. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Immunization Program. Available online:
  3. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2010). Statement on measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine. Canada Communicable Disease Report, 36(ACS-9): 1–22. Also available online:


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer William Atkinson, MD, MPH -

Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 28, 2014