Rubella Disease and Vaccine Information

Find the Information You Need to Make an Informed Vaccine Decision
Updated March 11, 2023


What is Rubella?

Rubella is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a togavirus, genus Rubivirus.  While often referred to as “German measles” or “three-day measles”, this virus is different and not related to the virus that causes measles.  Rubella is contagious and for the majority of cases is a mild viral infection that primarily occurs in childhood but can also affect adults. About 25 to 50 percent of rubella infections are asymptomatic.   

The virus is transmitted through direct contact or contact with respiratory secretions (nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing),  and recovery from rubella usually confers lifelong immunity, although there are rare reports of repeat cases.  Laboratory testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis of rubella because the rash associated with the illness is not easily distinguishable from other rash illnesses.  Click to read more about Rubella…

What is Rubella Vaccine?

Rubella vaccine is a weakened (attenuated) form of the live rubella virus. Currently, rubella vaccine in the U.S. is only available as a combination vaccine. There are two available vaccines for use in the U.S and both vaccines are recommended for children beginning at 12 months of age.    Merck’s vaccine package insert states that the MMRII vaccine should be given one month before or one month after any other live viral vaccines.  Merck’s ProQuad vaccine package insert states that one month should lapse between administration of ProQuad and another measles containing vaccine such as MMRII and at least three months should lapse between ProQuad and any varicella containing vaccine. 

According to Merck, both MMRII and ProQuad rubella containing vaccines are screened for adventitious agents. Each dose of ProQuad also contains aborted fetal WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts and MRC-5 cells.    Merck’s MMRII vaccine is a live attenuated virus vaccine propagated in WI-38 aborted diploid lung fibroblasts  derived from the lung tissue of an aborted three-month human female embryo.  Click to learn more about Rubella vaccines

Rubella Quick Facts
Rubella Infection
  • Young adults, especially young women, who are infected with rubella may have swollen glands in the back of the neck and joint pain, swelling and stiffness (arthritis) that lasts for several weeks. Rarely, more serious complications of rubella, including brain inflammation and chronic arthritis, may occur; 
  • While rubella is mildly contagious and usually not a serious infection, a pregnant woman infected with rubella during the first three months of pregnancy has a greater chance of miscarriage and of giving birth to a baby with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) and birth defects. Infants born with CRS can suffer from deafness, blindness, heart defects, developmental delay, small head size and other serious health problems.  Click to read more Rubella Quick Facts
Rubella Vaccine
  • Mild side effects such as redness, rash or pain at the injection site, along with fever and swelling of the glands in the neck or cheeks have been reported following MMR and MMR-V vaccination;   
  • More serious side effects following vaccination include shock, encephalitis, convulsions (seizures), encephalopathy, thrombocytopenia purpura, arthritis, optic neuritis, lupus, Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), aseptic meningitis, deafness, gastrointestinal disorder, cardiomyopathy, transverse myelitis, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.    Click to read more Rubella Quick Facts

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Rubella and the Rubella Vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


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