As pockets of measles outbreaks occur in a handful of areas of the United States, adults vaccinated decades ago could find themselves at risk of infection if they travel internationally or to outbreak areas domestically.
Measles is an infectious disease that causes symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye. According to the Champaign Health District, the first measles vaccine became available in 1963. The “live“ version of the vaccine, introduced in 1963, worked well. Another version of the vaccine, the inactivated or “killed” version, administered 1963-1967, may not have been as effective. People who received this vaccine may need to be re-immunized, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These people should receive one dose of the “live” MMR vaccination.
If an adult received only one dose of the vaccination, a second dose is not harmful, according to officials at the local health district – which offers the vaccines. There is no database for adults to consult about which vaccine they received from 1963-67. Anyone in this age range who is unsure of their immunity would be unharmed by pursuing another vaccine now.
If a person received the two standard doses of the MMR vaccine after 1967, he/she should be protected against the measles for life. Most people born before 1957 are thought to have been infected naturally with the virus and should be immune.
People can have a blood test to check for antibodies/immunity against the measles. Once a person has had the measles, he/she is immune for life.
Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world. In the United States, most of the measles cases occur from international travel. The disease can be brought to the United States by unvaccinated people and spread to other people, causing outbreaks.
It is important for people to make sure they are protected against measles before international travel. It is recommended before international travel that infants 6-11 months of age receive one dose of the MMR vaccine; children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days; and teenagers/adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of the MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.
For more information about measles and the MMR vaccine, go to cdc.gov/measles, or contact the Champaign Health District at 937-484-1605.