The rubella vaccine is usually given as a combined measles-mumps-rubella inoculation, which contains the safest and most effective form of each vaccine. Doctors recommend that children receive the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age, and again between 4 and 6 years of age — before entering school. It's particularly important that girls receive the vaccine to prevent rubella during future pregnancies.

Usually babies are protected from rubella for six to eight months after birth because of the immunity passed on from their mothers. If a child requires protection from rubella before 12 months of age — for example, for certain foreign travel — the vaccine can be given as early as 6 months of age. But children who are vaccinated early still need to be vaccinated at the recommended ages later.

Do you need the MMR vaccine?

You don't need a vaccine if you:

  • Had two doses of the MMR vaccine after 12 months of age or one dose of the MMR vaccine plus a second dose of measles vaccine
  • Have blood tests that indicate you're immune to measles, mumps and rubella
  • Are a man who was born before 1957
  • Are a woman who was born before 1957 and you don't plan to have any more children, you already had the rubella vaccine, or you have a positive rubella immunity test

You should get a vaccine if you don't fit the criteria listed above and you:

  • Are a nonpregnant woman of childbearing age
  • Attend college, trade school or postsecondary school
  • Work in a hospital, medical facility, child care center or school
  • Plan to travel overseas or take a cruise

The vaccine is not recommended for:

  • Pregnant women or women who plan to get pregnant within the next four weeks
  • People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or a previous dose of MMR vaccine

If you have cancer, a blood disorder or another disease, or take medication that affects your immune system, talk to your doctor before getting an MMR vaccine.

Side effects of the vaccine

Most people experience no side effects from the vaccine. About 15 percent of people develop a fever between seven and 12 days after the vaccination, and about 5 percent of people develop a mild rash. Some teens and adult women experience temporary joint pain or stiffness after receiving the vaccine. Fewer than one out of a million doses causes a serious allergic reaction.

In recent years, as the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen — without a clear explanation — widespread concerns have been raised about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conclude that there is no scientifically proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In addition, there is no scientific benefit to separating the vaccines. These organizations note that autism is often identified in toddlers between the ages of 18 months and 30 months, which happens to be about the time children are given their first MMR vaccine. But this coincidence in timing shouldn't be mistaken for a cause-and-effect relationship.

Jul. 09, 2011

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