MMR is licensed to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. In addition to preventing these viral diseases, the vaccine can be used during an outbreak after people have been exposed to the virus(es). Although MMR is used in children for the most part, it may also be given to adults in particular cases.
What Is MMR Used For?The MMR vaccine (officially known as M-M-R® II) is usually given as two separate doses during early childhood (one at 12 to 15 months of age and one just before starting school). However, in some situations it may also be recommended for adults. MMR provides protection against the following viral diseases:
- Measles, a viral infection that commonly causes a rash, fever, cough, runny nose, and eye irritation. Serious effects of measles include:
- Mumps, a viral infection that commonly causes a fever, headache, and swollen glands. Serious effects of mumps include:
- Meningitis (a dangerous infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
- Swelling of the ovaries and testicles
- Rubella (also known as German measles), a viral infection that commonly causes a rash, fever, and arthritis. Serious effects of rubella affect pregnant women and include:
- Serious birth defects.
Interestingly, the second MMR dosage is not a booster dose, designed to provide additional protection from the diseases. Instead, it is used to provide immunity for the small but significant portion of people who fail to respond to the first dose.
Depending on your state requirements for school entry, your child may be able to skip the second dose if you can provide documentation through blood tests known as "titers" that your child is immune to measles, mumps, and rubella. In rare cases, individuals may fail to respond to two doses.
In addition to the standard way in which vaccines are used, MMR can be used in outbreak settings, even in people who may already have been exposed to the virus(es). The sooner the vaccine is given after exposure, the better it will work. When used in outbreak settings, MMR can be given to children as young as six months old, although the usual two doses at 12 to 15 months of age and just before school entry will still be necessary.