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MMR (Mumps, Measles & Rubella)

What is MMR vaccine?

MMR vaccine is 3 in 1 vaccine where antigens from 3 different viruses i.e. Mumps, Measles and Rubella are put into a single vial (bottle) to be administered to children as a single shot.

The viruses in this vaccine had been modified to become weak and hence they work by fooling the body defense system into thinking it’s under attack by viruses when the shot is given and produce antibodies. These antibodies are used to fight off the condition if they encounter in the future.

When it is given?

In our Malaysian Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI); it is given at 1 year of age. A second booster dose is given at standard one (6-7years of age)

Where is it given?

It is given as single injection to arm (older children) and thigh (infants)

Why is important to have this shot?

All these three viruses are common cause of childhood illnesses. Since the introduction of these vaccines which was initially given separately; we have seen a decline of these diseases. However, for this to maintain we need a coverage of vaccine to be more than 95% all the time (this means that parents should always take this vaccine as part of protecting their children).

What happens when parents or guardian refuses vaccine?

  • There are people who think since we are now living in 20th century and our amenities and infrastructures have improved and hence poor hygiene or overcrowding is NOT a problem; we do not need this vaccine for protection.
  • This is a false assurance since occurrence of this infection it’s not related to hygiene. Infection like measles are transmitted from person to person through aerosolisation (spread of the virus through air by infected saliva) whereas  infection like rubella and mumps, gets transmitted through contact with secretion from nose/mouth when infected people cough or sneezes.
  • About 150,000 to 175,000 people die from measles each year around the world—mostly in places where children do not get the measles vaccine.
  • Measles is still common in most parts of the world including Europe, Asia, Africa, Pacific and even USA. WHO estimates that worldwide about 20 million people get measles each year.

When children do get any of THESE three infections, there is no specific medication to kill these viruses. Treatment offered are only SYMPTOMATIC i.e. paracetamol to control fever and fluids to help improve hydration. But do these infections cause complications?

Yes, they do. Measles infection can damage the lung (pneumonia) and also brain (encephalitis). Mumps other than causing swelling at cheek (both sides) can also in long term; reduce fertility among men (complication of orchitis- “inflammation of testes”).

Rubella can cause pregnant women to abort or cause the baby to be born deformed. This birth defect called “congenital rubella” has effect on growth of baby, causes eye, hearing, and intellectual and heart problems. As many as 85 out of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first 3 months of her pregnancy will have a birth defect.

Therefore if the parents or guardian refuse this vaccine; we would be seeing again this childhood illness that were almost eliminated and experience long term complications.

How effective is this vaccine?

95% of all children (at least 95 children out of 100) who get two doses/shots of the MMR vaccine will be protected from measles, mumps and rubella.

What are the side effects?

Most children can get this shot without any problems. Some experience mild side effects like fever or pain at injection side.

Does MMR vaccine cause autism?

NO. Many studies had been done in United States and other countries. None of these studies have shown a connection/link between MMR vaccine and autism. (Refer educational piece from http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf


  • CDC: Fact sheets for parents CDC.(2013). Retrieved June 18, 2014, from:  http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccine/mmr/mmr.html.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: healthy children.org. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from:  http://www.healthychildren.org/english/
  • Hussain Imam Hj Muhammad Ismail, Ng HP et al. Paediatric protocols for Malaysian Hospitals (3rd ed). Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.


Last Reviewed : 3 June 2015
Writer : Dr. Thahira bt A. Jamal Mohamed
Accreditor : Dr. Norzila bt. Mohamed Zainudin