What is an MMR Vaccine?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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The MMR vaccine is a combination vaccine created in the early 1970s to protect people from measles, mumps, and rubella. These childhood diseases were widespread before the development of the MMR vaccine and have since been almost completely wiped out in many countries. This vaccine is typically given to babies after they reach one year of age, and again between the ages of four and six. The second dose is a precaution in case the first dose didn't create immunity in the person who received it. Immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella after receiving the vaccine should last a lifetime.

In 1964, the measles vaccine was developed. Most people who were born before 1957 are thought to already have immunity to measles because the disease was so rampant at that time. It is an extremely contagious illness that causes cold and flu-like symptoms and can lead to more serious problems such as seizures, encephalitis, and pneumonia. Over 450 people died as a result of measles each year before the vaccine was introduced, and more than half a million required hospitalization. Since the vaccine has been available, the majority of people who get measles are those who either refused the vaccine or only had one dose instead of two.


After the measles vaccine was created, the mumps vaccine came out in 1967. Mumps was not as common as measles, but there were still hundreds of thousands of cases reported each year before the vaccine. The symptoms of mumps include swollen glands, fever, and headache. This disease can cause sterility in men who develop mumps after puberty due to orchitis, which is severe testicle inflammation. Other serious complications may include deafness, encephalitis, and meningitis.

A vaccine was developed for rubella, also known as German measles, in 1969. This condition is not typically as serious as mumps or measles, but can be very dangerous to the unborn child of a pregnant mother. Women who develop rubella while expecting are at a higher risk for miscarriage, and could have children with birth defects, mental retardation, heart problems, or other issues. In most cases, people who get rubella will only notice a mild fever and a reddish rash on the face, and some people might not have any symptoms. Since the vaccine was created, there has been a 99% decrease in the number of rubella cases reported each year.

Doctors recommend the MMR vaccine to everyone unless a medical condition or medical treatment could cause an adverse reaction. A pregnant woman who has not already been vaccinated should wait until the birth of her baby to get the vaccine. Adults and children who receive it could experience side effects, but they are usually very mild and disappear quickly. The most common side effects are fever and rash, and these may occur up to 12 days after receiving the MMR vaccine. More serious side effects, such as seizures or bleeding problems, are extremely rare.


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