We are on track for a record-breaking measles season. Go to the United States!
Since the disease was practically eliminated from the country in 2000, there have been some cases every year due to outbreaks triggered by travelers. Given that the number of cases of this year rises above 600, one might ask: Can I trust my childhood measles vaccine? I did too get my vaccine against infant measles?
Children should get a measles vaccine vaccination (given as an MMR or a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine) immediately after they are one year old. An immune system of a few children will not be fully prepared at that age, in which case the vaccine will not take over, so everyone should get a booster shot around the time they start asylum.
Because your old vaccine may not be good enough
The measles vaccine became available for the first time in 1963 and for some years there were two different vaccines. The version with live and weakened measles virus is still used today. A different shot, with virus killed, was introduced more or less at the same time but was discontinued in 1967 because it was not as effective.
If you have the least effective vaccine, the recommendation is to take a second dose, this time with the live vaccine. (It is possible that you got that extra shot when you were a kid.)
In 1989, the CDC began recommending that even children who got the normal vaccine still have to get a second shot, because, remember, it doesn't work on everyone the first time. One dose is 93% effective; with both doses, the efficacy rises to 97%.
How to know if you need a new shot
As we discussed earlier, you can always check the vaccination records (if you can find them) and, if in doubt, ask your doctor for advice. In most cases, they recommend the same thing that the CDC is saying, which is to make sure you get at least one dose of the live vaccine, and in some cases recommend two. Here is the breakdown of the CDC:
you not need a vaccine if …
- You know you had measles
- You were born before 1957 (then, all got the measles)
- You did a lab test that shows you are immune to measles
If you know you've had a dose of the measles / MMR vaccine scheduled, it's enough if …
- You are a preschool child (because you will get the second dose when you start school)
- You are an adult at low risk of being exposed to measles
You should take a second dose if:
- You are a school age child
- You are an adult traveling, working in health care, attending college, or otherwise at high risk of being exposed to measles
If you don't know your status, resume shooting anyway. The CDC states that there is "no harm in getting another dose of MMR, even if you are already immune to measles".
The advice above applies to almost everyone, but there are some people who shouldn't get the shot. If you are pregnant, or if you or a family member has a weakened immune system due to an immune disease or chemotherapy, the vaccine carries risks that can outweigh the benefits. (The complete list of contra-indications of the CDC is here.) Do not, however, discuss the risks with your doctor to understand what is right for you.
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