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Vaccines to Prevent Rubella
Rubella is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. In children, the disease is usually mild with fever and a rash. But, if a pregnant woman gets infected, the virus can cause serious birth defects. Rubella can be prevented with vaccination.
Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine:
MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months to 12 years old and may be used in place of MMR vaccine if varicella vaccination is also needed. A health care provider can help decide which vaccine to use.
MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. MMR vaccine is the best way to protect children against rubella and to prevent them from spreading the disease to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Anyone born during or after 1957, who has never had rubella or has never been vaccinated, against rubella should receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine. If you are not sure if you are protected against rubella, first try to find your vaccination records or documentation of rubella immunity. If you do not have written documentation of rubella immunity, you should get MMR vaccine. Another option is to have a doctor test your blood to determine whether you’re immune, but this is likely to cost more and will take two doctor’s visits. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to rubella.
Women who are planning to become pregnant should make sure they have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if they are immune to rubella. Most women of childbearing age were vaccinated as children with the MMR vaccine, but they should confirm this with their doctor. If they need to get vaccinated for rubella, they should avoid becoming pregnant until one month (28 days) after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Pregnant women who are not protected against rubella should wait until after they have given birth to get MMR vaccine.
Last reviewed: April, 2015
Rubella is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is also known as German measles or three-day measles, but it is not the same disease as measles. Young children who get rubella usually have a mild illness, with symptoms that can include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Older children and adults are more likely to have a headache, pink eye, and general discomfort before the rash appears.
Rubella is usually spread to others through sneezing or coughing. In young children, rubella is usually mild, with symptoms that include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Older children and adults are more likely to experience headache, pink eye, and general discomfort before the rash appears. Aching joints occur in many cases, especially among young women. The most serious complication from rubella infection is the harm it can cause to a pregnant woman's unborn baby.
Anyone who is not immune from either previous rubella infection or from vaccination can get rubella. While rubella was declared eliminated from the United States in 2004, the disease still occurs in other countries. Therefore, unvaccinated people can get rubella while abroad can bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others.
If an unvaccinated pregnant woman gets infected with rubella virus it can lead to miscarriage, or her baby can die before or just after birth. Also, she can pass the virus to her unborn baby who can develop serious birth defects, such as heart problems, loss of hearing and eyesight, intellectual disability, and liver or spleen damage.
Serious birth defects are more common if a woman is infected early in her pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. In fact, women infected with rubella early in pregnancy have a 1 in 5 chance of having problems with the pregnancy.
Microscopic view of rubella (German measles).