What is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine?

Measles, mumps, and rubella are diseases caused by viruses. They can be easily spread: through contact with an infected individual, contaminated surfaces, as well as spread through the air when an infected individual coughs or sneezes.  The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine provides protection against all three diseases.


Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the morbillivirus and is transmitted by droplets of saliva present in the secretions of the nose, mouth, and throat. Fever, conjunctivitis and pharyngitis are symptoms that present themselves and follow a rash that spreads from behind the ears to the whole body. In some cases, measles can lead to complications, especially in children under the age of 5 and in individuals over the age of 20.  


Mumps is a contagious infectious disease caused by a virus. The disease affects mainly the upper respiratory tract and the salivary glands and occurs through the exchange of infected salvia. Non-specific symptoms (headache, fever, malaise) may occur, followed by pain in the ear and parotid gland (height of the jaw). The parotid gland then swells, hence the name mumps.


Rubella is an infectious disease caused by Rubivirus. It is contagious and is spread by droplets of infected saliva through talking, sneezing or coughing. The virus is localized in different tissues of the body, including the lymph nodes. It manifests as a rash that spreads from behind the ears to the face and then down towards the neck.


Individuals that should avoid getting a measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine include the following:

  • Individuals with severe allergic reactions to gelatin or neomycin
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems (HIV/AIDS, cancer or cancer treatments)
  • Individuals who have had a severe allergic reaction to the first MMR shot
  • Women who are pregnant



What is the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine composed of?

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is made ​​from live, harmless viruses that are able to stimulate the body’s defense mechanism but not transmit the disease itself inside the individual.  
There is also a combined vaccine containing both components of MPR and MPRV (chickenpox vaccine) that can be administered in children at twelve years of age, instead of two separate vaccines.



When is it recommended to receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine?

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children. It protects against three potentially serious illnesses. It is a two-part vaccination that is administered subcutaneously in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose around 5-6 years.



What are the side effects of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine?

Following administration of the MMR vaccine, only a slight pain may be felt at the injection site. Mild symptoms that may occur include the following:

  • Redness at the injection site
  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Swelling of the area of injection
  • Pain


Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions. Through rare, there are such cases that may present themselves and cause symptoms in individuals such as fever, swelling of the face or back of the neck, seizures, and brain damage.  These problems may occur within minutes or a few hours after the vaccination, depending on the individual’s immune system. In some cases, symptoms may even present themselves 6-14 days after vaccination.