The rubella vaccine is usually given as a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Doctors recommend that children receive the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age, and again between 4 and 6 years of age — before entering school. It's particularly important that girls receive the vaccine to prevent rubella during future pregnancies.
Babies born to women who have received the vaccine or who are already immune are usually protected from rubella for six to eight months after birth. If a child requires protection from rubella before 12 months of age — for example, for certain foreign travel — the vaccine can be given as early as 6 months of age. But children who are vaccinated early still need to be vaccinated at the recommended ages later.
Widespread concerns have been raised about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there is no scientifically proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism. There is also no scientific benefit to separating the vaccines.
These organizations note that autism is often identified in toddlers between the ages of 18 and 30 months, which is about the time children are given their first MMR vaccine. But this coincidence in timing typically shouldn't be mistaken for a cause-and-effect relationship.
Do you need the MMR vaccine?
You don't need a vaccine if you:
- Had two doses of the MMR vaccine after 12 months of age.
- Have blood tests that indicate you're immune to measles, mumps and rubella.
- Were born before 1957. Women born before 1957 don't need a vaccine if they already had the rubella vaccine or if they have a positive rubella immunity test.
You typically should get a vaccine if you don't fit the criteria listed above and you:
- Are a nonpregnant woman of childbearing age
- Attend college, trade school or postsecondary school
- Work in a hospital, medical facility, child care center or school
- Plan to travel overseas or take a cruise
The vaccine is not recommended for:
- Pregnant women or women who plan to get pregnant within the next four weeks
- People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or a previous dose of MMR vaccine
If you have cancer, a blood disorder or another disease, or you take medication that affects your immune system, talk to your doctor before getting an MMR vaccine.
If you've been exposed to the virus that causes rubella, you can help keep friends, family and co-workers safe by telling them about your diagnosis. If your child has rubella, let the school or child care provider know.
Side effects of the vaccine
Most people experience no side effects from the vaccine. About 15% of people develop a fever between seven and 12 days after the vaccination, and about 5% of people develop a mild rash. Some teens and adult women experience temporary joint pain or stiffness after receiving the vaccine. Fewer than 1 out of 1 million doses causes a serious allergic reaction.