Do You Need Another Measles Vaccination?

You may have heard some of the news stories. Measles, a highly contagious virus that was eliminated in the United States in 2000, has made an alarming comeback. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1,000 measles cases have been reported in the United States so far in 2019. That’s a dramatic rise from the 2018 total of 372 reported cases. Lower vaccination rates have left many people vulnerable to measles, especially those with weakened immune systems or who are too young to vaccinate. However, some cases developed in people who were vaccinated in childhood.  Although rare, some adults require an additional measles vaccination to prevent infection.

A Brief History

Nearly everyone born in the United States prior to 1957 came down with measles. The disease affected 3 million to 4 million people every year, resulting in 400-500 deaths annually. Some patients developed encephalitis, which is a dangerous swelling of the brain. Scientists released the first measles vaccine in 1963 and released an improved version in 1968. Patients may now get vaccinated through the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

What Do Doctors Recommend?

Current vaccine schedules recommend that children get two doses, but many adults only received one dose in childhood. That may not be enough to prevent infection, especially in high-risk populations. High-risk groups include:

  • People living in an area with a current measles outbreak
  • College students, especially those living in dorms
  • Healthcare workers
  • International travelers

Some healthcare practitioners are also concerned about people who received the vaccine between 1963 and 1968. Those individuals received a “killed” virus vaccine that is less effective than the live vaccine developed in 1968. People born between those years may want to check with their doctors to see if a second vaccine is appropriate. For those who do tolerate vaccines well, a second dose may prevent serious illness and a lifetime of aftereffects.