MMR vaccine

What is Measles, Mumps and Rubella?

Measles is a serious disease caused by a virus and may even result in death. This disease is highly contagious and particularly affects children.

A person affected with Measles will have fever, rash, runny nose, cough, red, watery eyes. In severe cases, the person may develop ear infection, diarrhoea, brain damage and death.¹

Mumps is a disease that is also caused by a virus.

A person with Mumps will experience fever, headache, tiredness, muscle aches, loss of appetite and swollen salivary glands.² Complications include swollen testicles or ovaries, hearing loss, encephalitis (inflammation of brain or part of it), and, rarely, death. A person can be prevented from having Mumps if he or she gets vaccinated.

Rubella or German measles is a contagious disease caused by a virus.

A person infected with German measles will have fever, rash, sore throat, headache, redness and itching in the eyes. Rubella can be transferred from pregnant women to their baby or they may have a miscarriage or their baby could be born with major birth defects.6

These diseases can be transmitted from person to person through air. A person can easily get these diseases if he or she comes in contact with the person already infected with any of these diseases.


When was the MMR vaccine discovered??

With the discovery of small pox vaccine in the 18th century, and certain other vaccines for polio, typhoid, tetanus, etc., it was observed that immunizing children in their early life resulted in lower infant mortality rate (IMR), increased life-expectancy and better general well-being. Small pox was completely eradicated in 1977.4 5

With time, medical experts found ways to combine different individual vaccines into a single injection. This led to reduced amount of pain and time required for the administration of vaccine. One such discovery of consolidated vaccines was the combination vaccine for preventing Measles, Mumps and Rubella, known as MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine was first discovered in 1971. It is a single shot vaccine comprising of mixture of 3 live attenuated viruses. However, it has been observed that some people may not develop immunity after receiving the 1st dose of the vaccine, and a subsequent second dose may be given so as to allow the vaccine to show its effect.

Who should get the vaccine?

  • All children are recommended to take minimum 2 doses of MMR vaccine.² 1st dose at 9 months of age and the second dose should be given in the 2nd year (between 15-18 months). The second dose can be given earlier provided at least 28 days are over, post the first dose of MMR vaccine. The 3rd dose is recommended at 4-6 years of age.
  • Babies who are younger than 12 months should be given a dose of MMR vaccine, if they are travelling out of country.³
  • People up to 18 years of age or older who are born after the year 1956, should be given at least 1 dose of MMR vaccine, unless they show a proof stating they have been vaccinated before or had all the three diseases.
  • If you are planning to have a baby, it is recommended to get yourself vaccinated with MMR vaccine so as to prevent these diseases from hampering your baby’s health.6
  • You should avoid getting pregnant for 3-4 months after taking MMR vaccination.
  • Women who are breastfeeding are safe to get vaccinated with MMR. It is scientifically proven that breastfeeding does not hamper MMR vaccine’s response and the vaccine also won’t affect the baby who’s been breast fed.
  • MMR vaccine should not be given to people with a weakened immune system, such as those suffering from HIV, cancer or taking chemotherapy.

What is the schedule for vaccination?

How effective is the vaccine?

MMR vaccine has been considered to be highly effective in preventing measles, mumps and rubella and the complications associated with these diseases. It is scientifically proven that children who have received 2 doses of MMR vaccine, are considered protected for life!

Are there any side effects?

MMR vaccine is generally safe and prevents measles, mumps and rubella. People who get vaccinated with MMR vaccine generally do not experience any serious side effects.9

Some adverse reactions include:

  • Mild rash
  • Fever
  • Soreness where the vaccine shot is given
  • Pain & stiffness in the joints, which lasts for some time, particularly in women and teenagers who did not already have immunity to the rubella component of the vaccine

There are some extremely rare side effects associated with MMR vaccine, which include:9

  • A few babies may experience seizures (jerking movements) if they are not vaccinated as per the vaccination schedule.
  • Few babies may have temporary thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), which can result in bleeding disorder.
  • Skin rash after the vaccine shot is taken
  • Coma or permanent brain damage

However, very rarely do such cases have been reported. According to the research studies, the incidence of these side effects has been 0.03% which is almost negligible. Hence, parents should not be worried and should get their children vaccinated.

What if a dose is missed?

If a child has missed the second dose of MMR vaccine, he or she should take it as early as possible. There is no need to start over again. However, it is advised to take both the doses as per schedule and as per the consulting doctor’s instructions so that the child remains protected from these serious diseases for lifetime!



Read more on Measles vaccine


1 BMC Res Notes. 2017 Jan 10;10(1):38.

2 MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Jul 29;65(29):731-4. doi:

3 Paediatr Drugs. 2015 Apr;17(2):167-74. doi:

4 Health Aff (Millwood). 2005 May-Jun;24(3):611-21.

5 Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Aug 26; 111(34): 12283–12287.

6 Int J Infect Dis. 2016 Aug;49:196-201


8 Vaccine. 2015 Mar 17;33(12):1440-5.

9 J Indian Med Assoc. 2013 Apr;111(4):230, 232-4.