Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

What are the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella?

The CDC recommends that people receive the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella. The first dose of the vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella. With the second dose, vaccine efficacy is boosted to 97% against measles and 88% against mumps.

Since the creation of the vaccine, cases of measles, mumps, and rubella have significantly decreased in the US, and knowledge of these illnesses has followed suit. Have you ever wondered what symptoms accompany rubella, or how mumps can be passed from person to person? Read on:


Measles is a highly contagious virus which worsens over time, characterized by a high fever; cough; runny nose; red, watery eyes; and often conjunctivitis. Two to three days following initial symptoms, tiny white Koplik spots appear inside the mouth; followed three to five days later by a rash spreading from the hairline and worsening of the fever that lasts a period of days before subsiding.

Measles is highly infectious – one contagious person is likely to infect 90% of people close to them who have not obtained immunity to the disease. The virus is passed through respiratory droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes, and can live in airspace for up to two hours following an infected cough or sneeze. The infected individual remains contagious from four days before symptoms appear to four days after appearance of the rash.

Complications vary, but are most common in children younger than five and adults older than 20. Common complications include ear infections and diarrhea, while those suffering more severe complications may require hospitalization to treat life-threatening pneumonia or encephalitis.

Each year in the ten years prior to creation of the vaccine in 1963, 48,000 people were hospitalized in the U.S. alone, and 400-500 people died as the result of a measles infection. With the help of the vaccine, reported measles cases decreased 80% by 1981, and by 2000 the disease was declared eliminated from the U.S.


The mumps disease affects the salivary glands, notable for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that accompany the illness. Symptoms appear anywhere from 16-18 days post infection to 12-25 days post infection, and include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen or tender salivary glands.

Mumps can be spread through saliva or mucus transmitted by coughing, sneezing, talking, or touching objects or surfaces with infected hands. Complications include deafness, inflammation of the testicles, brain, ovaries, breast tissue, and tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. The disease is likely contagious before the salivary glands begin to swell, and up to five days following swelling.

Patient infected with mumps after refusing MMR vaccination

While the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease, highly vaccinated communities can still be vulnerable to mumps outbreaks. Although vaccination aids in limiting size, duration, complications and spread of the outbreaks, crowded environments and exchange of saliva may increase risk of passing the virus. An individual with two doses of the vaccine decreases their chances of catching the disease by 88%.


Rubella, or “German Measles” is a contagious disease that is usually mild, presenting symptoms only in 50-75% of those infected. In adults, low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash are common, although some adults may also experience headaches, pink eye, and general discomfort before the rash disappears.

Children who experience symptoms typically present with a red rash for about three days; appearing on the face and spreading to the rest of the body. Within five days, children may also experience low-grade fever, headache, mild pink eye, discomfort, swollen lymph nodes, coughing, and a runny nose.

Besides prevention through vaccination, there are no current treatments for rubella, although some physicians may recommend bed rest and medicine for fever. Women experience complications more often than men, up to 70% experiencing arthritis as a result of their rubella infection.

Child infected with rubella after refusing the MMR vaccine

Rubella may also cause complications with pregnancy especially if a woman is infected in her first trimester. Chances of miscarriage and infant death immediately following birth increase in pregnant women infected with rubella. For babies who survive past birth the disease causes greater risk for serious birth defects, such as heart problems, loss of hearing and eyesight, intellectual handicaps, and damage to the liver or spleen.

Prior to the rubella vaccine, created in 1969, single epidemics affected up to 12.5 million people. Epidemics like the one from 1964 to 1965 caused 11,000 pregnant women to lose their children, the death of 2,100 newborns, and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in 20,000 infants. With the help of vaccines, rubella was eliminated from the U.S. in 2004.

Who should receive the vaccine?

The CDC recommends that children receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine from 12-15 months, and the second dose at 4-6 years. Adults born after 1956 who have not been vaccinated should receive at least one dose of the vaccine, unless they have contracted all three illnesses.

Populations who should not receive the vaccine include pregnant women, people who are sick at the time the injection is scheduled, and anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reation to neomycin, or any other component of the vaccine.

Vaccine filled syringe enters newborn's arm as baby watches

Are there any side effects associated with the MMR Vaccine?

Mild side effects from the MMR vaccine include fever, mild rash, and swelling of glands in the neck or cheeks. Moderate complications include seizure caused by fever; temporary pain and stiffness of joints; and temporarily low platelet counts. Very rarely, individuals may experience deafness, long term seizures, coma, brain damage, or a serious allergic reaction.

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

Vaccines are an important part of public health, working to save lives by preventing disease. Most of the time, vaccines are administered without any serious problems. Like with any medication, however, there is a risk of side effects, ranging from mild to serious.

For this reason, the US government created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), a “no-fault” alternative to the traditional legal system. Petitions can be filed by any individual, at any age, after developing an injury believed to be a result of a covered vaccine, if jurisdictional requirements are met.

Conway Homer, P.C. is the most experienced vaccine injury law firm in the United States. We represent clients from all 50 states and have advocated for landmark cases that have shaped the Vaccine Program and made it friendlier and more generous to those individuals who suffer from vaccine injuries.
To get in touch with our dedicated team, click here for a free consultation.

Conway Homer attorneys specializing in vaccine injury litigation