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Rubella vaccine

Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Mar 20, 2023


What is the rubella vaccine?

The rubella vaccine protects against rubella, a disease caused by the rubella virus. It is also known as German measles. Rubella is usually a mild illness but can be very serious for pregnant people and their developing babies. The rubella vaccine is given as the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Who should get the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine?

  • The MMR vaccine is given to children as a series of 2 doses. The first dose is given at 12 months, and the second dose is given at 4-6 years of age.  Children 4 - 12 years of age who also need protection against chickenpox (varicella) can get their second dose as the combined Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
  • Older children and teens who have not been immunized should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine. While a single dose of rubella-containing vaccine is recommended for rubella protection, two doses of measles and mumps vaccines are required for protection against these diseases.
  • One dose of rubella-containing vaccine is recommended for adults born in 1957 or later who have not had rubella disease (for those who have had rubella disease, laboratory evidence of rubella immunity or laboratory-confirmed acute rubella infection is required).
  • Adults born before 1957 are assumed to have protection against rubella from natural infection.
  • Health care workers need one dose of rubella-containing vaccine (there is no age above which protection against rubella can be assumed for health care workers). 

What are the benefits of the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is the best way to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella, which are serious and sometimes fatal diseases. When you or your child get immunized, you help protect others as well.

What are the side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get measles, mumps, or rubella.
Many people have no side effects from the vaccine. For those that do, common side effects may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, headache, muscle soreness, nausea and a rash that looks like measles and swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck can occur about 7 to 12 days after getting the vaccine. Temporary joint pain may occur in teenage and adult women.
Rarely, more serious reactions can include seizures caused by fever (about 1 child in 3,000), a temporary drop in the blood cells that help prevent bleeding (about 1 person in 30,000), and encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain (about 1 person in 1 million). The possibility of getting encephalitis from measles is about 1 in 1,000 which is much higher than from the vaccine.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.

Who should not get the MMR vaccine?

Speak with your health care provider if you or your child:
  • Have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of measles, mumps, or rubella vaccine, or any component of the vaccine including gelatin or neomycin.
  • Have an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment.
  • Have had a drop in platelets, the blood cells that help prevent bleeding, after getting a previous dose of MMR vaccine without another cause being identified.
  • Have had a blood transfusion or received other blood products within the past 12 months.
  • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Women should avoid becoming pregnant for 1 month after getting the MMR vaccine.
There is no need to delay getting immunized because of a cold or other mild illness. However, if you have concerns speak with your health care provider.


About rubella

  • Rubella, also known as German measles, is a disease caused by the rubella virus.
  • Rubella is spread by contact with saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus spreads through droplets in the air.
  • Rubella is usually a mild illness but can be very serious for pregnant people and their developing babies.
  • It can cause serious complications and birth defects in unborn babies, including deafness, eye problems, heart defects, liver damage, and brain damage. This is called Congenital Rubella Syndrome. It occurs in about 9 out of 10 babies born to people who become infected with the virus in the first 3 months of their pregnancy. Rubella can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • If you are a person of childbearing age, make sure you are immune to rubella before getting pregnant. If you are not immune, you should get the MMR vaccine and then wait one month before getting pregnant.

Did you know?

Rubella infection in early pregnancy can cause serious harm to the unborn baby. 


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