Side effects of the measles vaccine

By Andy Stergachis, PhD, BPharm Sep 27, 2022 • 4 min

What is the measles vaccine?

The measles vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. For this reason, the measles vaccine is also called the MMR vaccine.

Is the measles vaccine safe?

The CDC considers the measles vaccine to be very safe. Even after FDA approval of medications, both the CDC and FDA are constantly checking the safety of vaccines. Healthcare providers, health officials and the public are notified of any issues with vaccines.

More importantly, getting the measles vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella. Vaccinations for measles were initiated in 1963. Prior to measles vaccinations, there were about 3 to 4 million people who contracted measles every year, with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths, and 1,000 people developing encephalitis, or swelling in the brain. There has been a greater than 99% decrease in measles since vaccinations were introduced.

What are the common side effects of the measles vaccine?

  • Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Mild rash
  • Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints

What are the rare side effects of the measles vaccine?

Most people who get the measles vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. The measles vaccine has been linked with a very small risk of seizures or jerking caused by high fever. Extremely rarely, a person may have a serious allergic reaction to the measles vaccine. If you have a serious reaction to a vaccine, seek immediate medical attention.

Who should not get the measles vaccine?

You should not get the measles vaccine if you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin or any other part of measles vaccine. Additionally, you should not get the measles vaccine if you are moderately or severely ill.

If a woman is pregnant or intends to become pregnant within the next month, the measles vaccine should not be given. A pregnant woman should wait to get the measles vaccine until after she has given birth. If a woman is breastfeeding, it is safe to get the MMR vaccination since the baby will not have effects from the vaccine in the breast milk.

Check with your healthcare provider about whether you should get the measles vaccine if you are any of the following:

  • A person with HIV, AIDS or if you have another disease that affects the immune system
  • A person treated with medications that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for two weeks or longer
  • A person with cancer
  • A person receiving cancer treatment with radiation and chemotherapy
  • A person with low blood platelet count

Is there a link between the measles vaccine and autism?

No, there is no link between the measles vaccine and autism. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have carefully studied the measles vaccine. No link between autism and the MMR vaccine has been found.

Published June 2022.

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