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How Safe is Rubella Immunization?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The rubella immunization or vaccination, which is usually administered with other vaccines for measles and mumps (MMR), is considered by the medical community to be safe when used as indicated, though no vaccination can ever be considered 100% safe. There are certain populations that should not receive this vaccination, but in the appropriate populations, the likelihood of a bad reaction is slim. In medical terms, benefits greatly exceed risk for people who meet vaccination criteria.

In the late 20th century, profound and increasing concern about the safety of the MMR vaccination rose, especially with the 1998 publication in the respected UK medical journal, The Lancet, of an article positing a direct link between vaccinations and autism. This study, which has since been discredited and removed from the medical journal, presented falsified research, as is now fully known. Moreover, as vaccination rates dropped, there was no corresponding decline in autism; to the contrary, rates have continued to climb.

One cause for concern was the ingredient thimerosal — which contains mercury — that was added as a preservative to the vaccine in some countries. In most places like the US, Canada, and the UK, the rubella immunization no longer contains this additive. There was never strong evidence that its presence created autism or other disorders, but lowering exposure to a known poison has been determined to be medically sensible.

There are real concerns about the safety of the rubella immunization when it is used in certain populations. Pregnant women should never use this vaccination because it can expose the rubella infection to the fetus, and can cause fetal death or a variety of severe birth defects. Women who are thinking about getting pregnant should check to see if they have immunity to rubella, which can be established by blood test. If they are not immune, they should have the vaccine before they get pregnant, and wait at least three months afterwards before attempting conception. Contracting rubella, due to lack of immunity during pregnancy, risks the life and safety of the fetus as well.

In other instances the rubella immunization isn’t safe to use and these include the following:

Moderate to severe illness the day of vaccination
Strong reaction/allergy to the MMR in the past
Receipt of blood products with antibodies in the last year
Allergy to any of the materials (like latex) in the shot.

If patients don’t have a condition that contraindicates the use of the rubella immunization, they’re advised by doctors to have it. Generally, rubella is not a fatal condition, unless contracted by a pregnant woman or someone with reduced immunity. Measles can be fatal, and mumps can cause male sterility. The most common side effects of the MMR are several days of soreness, fever, rash, and joint pain. Longer lasting joint pain occurs in approximately 0-3% of children and about 10-25% of adult women. A few more adverse effects to the MMR have been reported, but these tend to occur at the level of hundredths or thousandths of a percentage point.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon156377 — On Feb 26, 2011

What a great question. I wonder why there have been no published studies from the NEJM or Lancet, answering exactly this question.

Currently, pregnant moms are tested to see if they have rubella titors. If they don't, the day they give birth, they are given the rubella vaccine. They then nurse their babies. Their babies then become autistic. 95 percent of them, then become autistic.

Young children entering college have to have the MMR to get back into school(without proof that they have received the shot previously). So the 18 year girl gets pregnant (after having the rubella injection). She gives birth and gives her child the MMR shot. Again 95 percent of these children become autistic. It is now 1 in 110 children who are autistic.

If rubella is so dangerous to babies, why are they giving the rubella shot to young college students (what is the rate of college girls getting pregnant?).

Why are they giving the rubella shot to mothers who are nursing the day after they give birth?

Can no one else, including NEJM and Lancet, see this is worth studying?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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