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Your Child's Vaccines: Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).

MMR Immunization Schedule

Children get the MMR vaccine as a shot in 2 doses:

  1. at age 12–15 months
  2. at age 4–6 years

Children traveling outside the United States can get the vaccine as early as 6 months of age. They still should get the routine doses at 12–15 months and 4–6 years of age. If they're staying in an area where disease risk is high, they should get the first dose at 12 months and the second at least 4 weeks later.

Older children also can get the vaccine if they didn't get it when they were younger. Sometimes doctors give MMR in combination with the chickenpox vaccine in a vaccine called MMRV.

The U.S. has had recent outbreaks of mumps and measles. An outbreak is when a disease happens in greater numbers than expected in a particular area. During an outbreak, doctors may recommend a third vaccine dose for some people. If you have questions about vaccinating your family during an outbreak, call your doctor or your state or local health department.

Why Is MMR Recommended?

Measles, mumps, and rubella are infections that can lead to serious illness. Most children who get the MMR vaccine will be protected from the three diseases throughout their lives.

Possible Risks of the MMR Vaccine

Serious problems such as allergic reactions are rare. Mild to moderate side effects can happen. Mild side effects are common and include soreness or redness at the site of the shot, mild rash, or fever. Moderate side effects are rare, and include swollen cheeks, febrile seizures, low platelets (which can cause unusual bleeding or bruising), and mild joint pain (in teenage girls and adult women).

When to Delay or Avoid MMR Immunization

The MMR vaccine is not recommended if your child:

  • had a serious allergic reaction to an earlier dose of MMR vaccine, or components of the vaccine, which include gelatin and the antibiotic neomycin
  • has a disorder that affects the immune system (such as cancer)
  • is taking steroids or another medicine that weakens the immune system
  • is getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • has a sibling or parent who was diagnosed with an immune system problem

Talk to your doctor about whether the vaccine is a good idea if your child:

  • is currently sick. But simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization.
  • has gotten any other vaccines in the past month, or recently got blood products (such as from a transfusion), as some can interfere with how well the MMR vaccine will work
  • has ever had a low platelet count
  • has tuberculosis

Your doctor may decide that the benefits of vaccinating your child outweigh the possible risks.

Pregnant women should not get the MMR vaccine until after childbirth.

Caring for Your Child After MMR Immunization

If your child develops a rash without other symptoms, no treatment is needed. The rash should go away in several days. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever and to find out the appropriate dose.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if:

  • You aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
  • There are problems after the immunization.
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