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Measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine

What are measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV)?

Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox are diseases caused by viruses. The viruses are easily spread through the air by sneezing and coughing.

Measles (red measles) causes fever, rash and cold-like symptoms and can lead to ear infection or pneumonia (a lung infection). More serious complications, occurring in 1 in 1,000 people, include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). This can lead to seizures, deafness or permanent brain damage. One in 3,000 people can die from complications.

Mumps causes fever, headache and swelling of the salivary glands and cheeks. More serious complications include encephalitis, which can lead to permanent brain damage. About 1 in 20 people with mumps get meningitis (an infection of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord). Mumps can also cause temporary deafness. Permanent deafness occurs in less than 5 in 100,000 people. About 1 in 4 adult men and boys (after puberty) may develop painful swelling of the testicles.

Rubella (German measles) causes fever, rash and headache. Encephalitis occurs in 1 in 6,000 cases and occurs in a higher frequency in adults. Rubella can cause serious complications and birth defects in an unborn baby including deafness, eye problems, heart defects, liver damage and brain damage. It occurs in 9 in 10 babies born to women who get rubella within the first three months of their pregnancy. Rubella can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

Varicella (chickenpox) causes fever and an itchy rash on the scalp and body. The rash changes to fluid-filled blisters that develop every 2 to 3 days and then crust over before more blisters appear. Complications from chickenpox include pneumonia, encephalitis and bacterial infections of the skin. Infection in teenagers and adults, and those with weakened immune systems, is much more severe. About 1 in 5,000 adults could die from chickenpox.

If a pregnant woman gets chickenpox, the unborn baby may develop birth defects or serious complications or die. For some people, the virus can become active again later in life and cause a painful rash called shingles.

How can measles, mumps, rubella and varicella be prevented?

  • Be immunized.
  • When you get your child immunized, you help protect others as well.
  • Practice good hygiene (e.g. hand washing).

Who can get the MMRV vaccine free of charge in Ontario?

Recommended Schedule for Healthy Children


1. Children who have had chickenpox before their 1st birthday should still get the vaccine as they may not have developed long lasting immunity to the disease and could get chickenpox again.

2. Children 1 year up to 6 years of age can receive MMRV vaccine if they have not previously received measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and chickenpox vaccines and have never had chickenpox disease.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Those who have:

  • mild illness, with or without a fever, is not a reason to avoid immunization;
  • had chickenpox disease older than 1 year of age will not benefit from receiving the vaccine;
  • had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of measles, mumps, rubella and/or chickenpox vaccines or who have serious allergies to any of the vaccine components;
  • an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment;
  • had a blood transfusion or received other blood products within the past 12 months need to consult with a doctor or public health nurse.

What are possible reactions to the vaccine?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get these diseases.

  • Common reactions to the vaccine may include pain, swelling and redness at the injection site.
  • A fever up to 39°C that lasts 1 to 2 days can occur 4 to 12 days after immunization.
  • A temporary skin rash (spots or blisters) could occur within 4 – 14 days of getting the vaccine.
  • Temporary swelling of the salivary glands and cheeks may also occur.

NOTE: Vaccine recipients who develop a rash within 6 weeks rarely spread chickenpox. However, they should avoid close contact with susceptible high-risk people until the rash disappears.

High risk people include:

  • People with weakened immune systems.
  • Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox.
  • Newborn infants of mothers who do not have a known history of chickenpox disease or laboratory evidence of prior disease.

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. If this happens after you leave the clinic, call 911 or the local emergency number. This reaction can be treated, and occurs in less than one in one million people who get the vaccine.

Who should you report reactions to?

Report any adverse or unexpected reactions to your local public health nurse or your doctor as soon as possible.

Talk to your public health nurse or health care provider if:

What does vaccine contain?

MMRV (Priorix-Tetra™) is a live vaccine and contains weakened forms of measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox viruses, amino acids, lactose, mannitol, sorbital, traces of neomycin and water.

Record of Protection

After you/your child receive any vaccination, make sure the health care provider updates your copy of the yellow vaccination record card. In addition, please report the vaccination to the Public Health Unit by calling, mailing, faxing or reporting online at Click on the Immunization Reporting button and complete the information.

Your immunization information will be recorded in a computerized system used to:

  • manage immunization records;
  • notify you if you or your child needs an immunization; and
  • monitor how well vaccines work in preventing vaccine preventable diseases.

Immunization records may be shared with health care professionals in order to provide public health services, assist with diagnosis and treatment, and to control the spread of vaccine preventable diseases.

For more information, contact: your local public health office at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.

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