Do I need a measles vaccine?
In February and March of 2019 eight cases of measles were contracted in Ocean County, all confined to the town of Lakewood. There have been no documented cases since. All cases involved persons who were not vaccinated or had no documentation of vaccination.
Let’s first start with who does not need a measles vaccine.
You do not need measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine if you meet any of these criteria for evidence of immunity:
- You have written documentation of adequate vaccination:
- at least one dose of a measles, mumps, and rubella virus-containing vaccine administered on or after the first birthday for preschool-age children and adults not at high risk for exposure and transmission
- two doses of measles and mumps virus-containing vaccine for school-age children and adults at high risk for exposure and transmission, including college students, healthcare personnel, international travelers, and groups at increased risk during outbreaks
- You have laboratory confirmation of past infection or had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
- You were born before 1957.*
If you do not have evidence of immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella, talk with your doctor about getting vaccinated. If you’re unsure whether you’ve been vaccinated, you should first try to find your vaccination records. If you do not have written documentation of MMR vaccine, you should get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine is safe, and there is no harm in getting another dose if you may already be immune to measles, mumps, or rubella.
If you received a measles vaccine in the 1960s, you may not need to be re-vaccinated. People who have documentation of receiving LIVE measles vaccine in the 1960s do not need to be re-vaccinated. People who were vaccinated prior to 1968 with either inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type should be re-vaccinated with at least one dose of live attenuated measles vaccine. This recommendation is intended to protect those who may have received killed measles vaccine, which was available in 1963-1967 and was not effective.
* Birth before 1957 provides only presumptive evidence for measles, mumps, and rubella. Before vaccines were available, nearly everyone was infected with measles, mumps, and rubella viruses during childhood. The majority of people born before 1957 is likely to have been infected naturally and therefore is presumed to be protected against measles, mumps, and rubella. Healthcare personnel born before 1957 without laboratory evidence of immunity or disease should consider getting two doses of MMR vaccine.
So, who needs a measles vaccine?
- Any adult who has never been immunized
- Any adult who had the killed measles vaccine given between 1963-1967
- Healthcare workers who only received 1 measles vaccine as children.
If you are uncertain of your vaccination status, a simple blood test ordered by your primary care provider can provide the answer.
Who cares about measles?
We do. There have been over 700 cases of the measles so far in the U.S. this year, up from 37 cases in all of 2004. This is a disease that will kill 1 of every 500 people who become infected with it. 90% of susceptible people exposed the measles virus will develop the disease. Exposure can be as easy as standing behind someone in a grocery line. Because not everyone who is vaccinated develops immunity, when the disease is active in the community some people who have had their shots can still get sick. The measles vaccine is incredibly safe and effective – we would never recommend it if this were not true. It does not cause autism. When you vaccinate you protect not only your own family, but the families of your friends and neighbors. We feel that measles vaccination is a true community responsibility.