Rubella Vaccine Immunization Information

Rubella Vaccine

Rubella (German Measles) can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. One dose is 97% effective at preventing rubella. Vaccine programs eliminated rubella in the U.S. in 2004, but it is still common elsewhere.

What is the rubella vaccine?

The vaccine against rubella is a live attenuated viral vaccine. That means it contains a live rubella virus that has been significantly weakened. The virus was first isolated in 1965 at the Wistar Institute from a rubella-infected aborted fetus.

Three rubella vaccines were approved in the United States in 1969: Meruvax®, Rubelogen® and Cendevax®. Rubelogen from the market because it was associated with a higher rate of joint complications.

In 1979, Meruvax-II® was approved and the first three rubella vaccines were discontinued.

In November 2010, Meruvax-II® was discontinued when Merck & Co. decided to stop making single-antigen vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella. Today, the only rubella vaccine is a combination vaccine against all three diseases that is called the MMR vaccine.

What are rubella vaccine names?

There is currently only one rubella vaccine on the market in the United States: M-M-R II® manufactured by Merck & Co.

Who gets the rubella vaccine?

Children should get two doses of the MMR vaccine at least 28 days apart. Some infants younger than 12 months old should get an additional dose of the MMR vaccine if they are traveling abroad.

Some adults should also get the rubella vaccine. Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine, unless they can prove they were vaccinated or had all three diseases (measles, mumps, rubella).

Who should NOT get a rubella vaccine?

  • People who are allergic to any ingredient in the vaccine (gelatin, neomycin, etc.)
  • Pregnant women (do not get pregnant for three months after immunization)
  • People with fever or moderate to severe illness
  • Patients on immunosuppressive therapy
  • People with blood disorders, leukemia, lymphoma, or cancer of the bone marrow or lymphatic system
  • People with a weak immune system, including people who are immunocompromised due to HIV/AIDS

Measles infections have caused encephalitis (brain damage) and death as a direct consequence of infections with the virus in the MMR vaccine in immunocompromised people.

How many shots do I need?

Two. Each 0.5-mL injection is administered in the upper arm or thigh.

What is the immunization schedule for rubella?

The immunization schedule for rubella is two doses of the MMR vaccine. The 1st dose is given between the ages of 12 and 15 months old and the 2nd dose given between the ages of 4 to 6 years old.

What are common side effects of rubella vaccines?

The most common side effects of the rubella vaccine are fever, mild rash, and swelling of the glands in the cheeks. Temporary joint pain and stiffness are more likely in teenagers and adults.

To learn more about the side effects associated with the rubella vaccine, please visit this page: Rubella Vaccine Side Effects.

What are severe side effects of rubella vaccines?

High fever causing a seizure (febrile seizure) is estimated to occur in around 1 in 3,000 children who receive the rubella vaccine.

Thrombocytopenia, a temporary condition involving low blood platelet counts, easy bruising, and bleeding under the skin is estimated to occur in around 1 in 30,000 children who receive the rubella vaccine.

Anaphylaxis, a whole-body allergic reaction that can be life-threatening or deadly, is estimated to occur in fewer than 1 in 1 milion children who receive the rubella vaccine.

There are reports of deafness, long-term seizures, coma, decreased level of consciousness, behavior changes, and other side effects in children who received the MMR vaccine. These side effects are so rare that it is unknown if they were actually caused by the vaccine.

Where can I get more information?

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