The MMR vaccine helps protect against measles, mumps, and rubella. It is typically part of a regular vaccine schedule for young children, but older children and adults can also receive the vaccine.

The vaccine helps prevent infection and limit infection severity if someone does contract measles, mumps, or rubella.

In the United States, most young children receive the MMR vaccine. Other individuals can also receive the vaccine as needed.

This article discusses the MMR vaccine schedule, who should and should not get the MMR vaccine, possible side effects, and vaccine hesitancy. It also answers some common questions about the MMR vaccine.

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Healthcare professionals typically administer the MMR vaccine in two doses, though some adults may only require one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following schedule for children:

  • first dose: between ages 12 and 15 months
  • second dose: between ages 4 and 6 years

However, unvaccinated children can receive two doses as long as they are spaced at least 28 days apart.

The CDC recommends separate MMR and varicella vaccines for children between 12 and 47 months old (1 and 4 years old). However, parents or caregivers can request measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccination. The MMRV vaccine is only licensed for use in children 12 months to 12 years old.

If a child receives the MMRV vaccine, the minimum interval between doses is 3 months.

The CDC recommends separate MMR and varicella vaccines for younger children because the risk of seizures is higher after MMRV vaccination than after separate first doses of MMR and varicella vaccines.

The CDC recommends all children receive their first dose between 12 and 15 months old. They should ideally receive the second dose between 4 and 6 years old.

Unvaccinated children should receive two doses separated by at least 28 days.

There is no federal law requiring MMR vaccination. However, all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring MMR vaccination for all children attending preschool through high school.

Other groups that should consider the MMR vaccination include:

  • unvaccinated children
  • students at post-high school institutions (such as college, trade school, etc.) with no evidence of immunity, such as vaccination records
  • adults with no evidence of immunity
  • healthcare workers without evidence of immunity
  • people who intend to become pregnant without evidence of immunity
  • people at an increased risk of measles, mumps, or rubella during an outbreak (in some cases, public health authorities may recommend an additional dose of MMR vaccine for these individuals)

People who travel internationally should also get the MMR vaccine:

  • children ages 6 through 11 months should get at least one dose
  • children ages 12 months or older should get two doses
  • teenagers or adults with no evidence of immunity should get two doses

Children who received the first MMR vaccine dose before the age of 12 months should still receive the second dose as part of a routine vaccine schedule.

Evidence of immunity can include:

  • being born before 1957
  • vaccination records
  • confirmed infection with MMR or blood tests proving immunity

While the majority of children should get the MMR vaccination as part of their routine vaccination schedule, some groups should not receive it.

Groups that should avoid the MMR vaccination may include:

  • people who are pregnant or who received a dose within the past month before getting pregnant
  • children or adults with severe allergies to the vaccine
  • people with a close family history of immune issues
  • people who have ever had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily
  • people with weakened immune systems, such as people living with HIV or cancer and those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments
  • people with tuberculosis
  • people with moderate to severe infections
  • anyone who received any other vaccinations within the past 4 weeks

People who fit into one or more of these categories should speak with a doctor. In some cases, the doctor may be able to advise an alternative schedule for the vaccination.

Some common side effects that can occur due to MMR vaccination include:

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests that these common side effects typically last for 2 to 3 days.

Additionally, a small number of people may develop other side effects, including:

In most cases, healthcare professionals consider the benefits of vaccination to outweigh the potential risk of side effects. However, people in known risk groups should discuss MMR vaccination with a doctor.

Measles outbreaks are on the rise, potentially threatening disease elimination status in the United States, according to a 2023 systematic review.

According to researchers, vaccine hesitancy may be the underlying cause. They note several social factors, including politics and income levels, as possible reasons for parents refusing vaccinations for their children.

The number one concern presented is a fear of autism. However, evidence confirms that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.

Researchers suggest that a multifaceted approach is required to help combat misinformation that may lead to vaccine hesitancy. The review highlights that most children and adults should receive the MMR vaccine.

People should speak with a qualified healthcare professional for more information if they have any concerns about themselves or a child in their care receiving the MMR vaccine.

What is an “anti-vaxxer”?

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about the MMR vaccine.

How often do people need MMR vaccination?

The regular vaccination schedule states that children should get the first dose between ages 12 and 15 months and the second between ages 4 and 6 years. Other high risk groups may need one or two doses based on their situation.

Do adults need an MMR booster?

Most adults do not need an MMR booster. However, the CDC recommends people without known immunity, those exposed to an outbreak, international travelers, or people who work in healthcare facilities receive the MMR vaccine.

How far apart are MMR vaccines given for adults?

Unvaccinated adults should wait at least 28 days between the first and second dose. Teens should also wait at least 28 days between doses.

The MMR vaccination schedule for children in the United States involves two doses. A healthcare professional administers the first dose around 1 year of age and the second when a child is between 4 and 6 years old.

Unvaccinated adults, teens, and children should also get two doses of the vaccination at least 28 days apart.

Certain groups of people should not get the vaccination, such as those with weakened immune systems.

A person can discuss the benefits and potential risks of MMR vaccination on an individual basis with a doctor.