Answers to Go with Susan Smith
Q. Like just about every kid in my neighborhood, I had the measles in the 1950s. I’ve been hearing about the need for adults to get vaccinated. I think I am immune. Is that right?
A. I found the following information on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, of which 500,000 were reported. Among reported cases, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1,000 developed encephalitis (brain swelling) from measles.
Were you born before 1957? If so, the CDC says you are immune. It sounds like this person was right. Virtually everyone in every neighborhood everywhere in America must have caught the measles before 1957.
Let’s turn to information for adults born after 1957. The CDC website states that one dose of measles-containing vaccine is sufficient for adults who will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission.
What is a high-risk setting? Adults who will be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission include: students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, people who public health authorities determine are at increased risk for getting measles during a measles outbreak and international travelers.
This high-risk group should have two doses of vaccine for measles unless they have: shot records confirming that they have had two doses of vaccinations covering measles; a laboratory test confirming that they have had measles at some point in their life; or a laboratory test confirming that they are immune.
There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).
What about children? According to the CDC, children in grades K-12 should have received two doses of vaccines that include measles. Preschool children should receive one dose of measles-containing vaccine.
At what age is it recommended that babies get that first measles vaccine? Children need two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection: the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
The recommendations for families traveling overseas are a little different. Babies 6 through 11 months old should receive one dose of MMR vaccine before leaving. Children 12 months of age or older will need 2 doses of MMR vaccine (separated by at least 28 days) before departure.
Many children receive their vaccinations at their family doctor or pediatricians’ office. For families who meet eligibility requirements, the Hays County Local Health Department offers vaccines at reduced or no cost. Call 512-393-5520 for additional information.