Children's Health

The Measles Vaccine: What You Need to Know

As cases of the measles pop up around Texas, people are wondering why it’s happening after the CDC labeled the disease as eliminated from the United States in 2000. Between the popularity of international travel to countries with significant measles diagnoses and the wave of people refusing vaccinations based on personal beliefs, this disease is resurfacing in clusters across the U.S. But is there anything to be worried about? Read on as we dive into the basics of the measles vaccine.

Why Should You Get the Measles Vaccine?

1. The measles infection is highly contagious. Many people who develop this infection mistake it for another condition at first due to its somewhat vague symptoms, including fever, cough, and runny nose. They tend to realize they have measles only once the tell-tale rash shows up. However, they’re contagious up to four days before the rash forms and four days after, meaning they can unwittingly spread measles in public settings. Measles is spread through infected liquids, such as saliva and mucus, in the air. These contagions stay active for up to two hours, meaning someone can catch measles from merely entering a room a contagious person had previously been in.

2. The measles vaccine is extremely effective. In fact, 97 percent of people who get the two doses recommended by the CDC become immune to measles for life. “Those who fall within the 3 percent who develop measles after receiving both doses typically have a much milder version of the condition since their immune system is already familiar with the infection and has an easier time eradicating it from the body,” explains Theresa Krause, MD, pediatrician at CHI St. Joseph Health Pediatrics College Station and member of CHI St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network.

3. Measles is dangerous. According to the CDC, 48,000 people were hospitalized and 400 to 500 died each year due to the measles infection in the decade before the development of the vaccine. It’s estimated 3 to 4 million came down with the measles each year. In 2000, the CDC labeled measles as eliminated from the U.S., which was largely due to the vaccination program. Today, however, over 100 cases have been reported in 10 states, including Texas. This poses a risk to anyone who is immunocompromised or otherwise unable to receive the vaccine, such as children younger than 12 months of age, people with certain chronic illnesses, cancer patients, and anyone who needs to take immunosuppressive drugs.

4. Vaccines are safe. Some choose not to vaccinate because they’ve heard false information about vaccines. Rumors concerning additives and supposed links to autism persist, but they are simply untrue. Vaccines are the most effective method for preventing diseases and the health complications that accompany them.  

When Should You Vaccinate?

Children should receive their first dose of the MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose between ages 4 and 6 years. This particular vaccine is only approved for children aged 12 months to 12 years. Older kids and adults who aren’t inoculated can get the first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at any time and should wait at least 28 days before receiving the second dose. For women of childbearing age who plan to become pregnant, experts recommend receiving the vaccine at least four weeks before conceiving, while pregnant women should wait to get this vaccine until after they’ve given birth.

If you are taking your infant abroad, they can get a vaccination as early as 6 months old to prevent them from contracting the disease in a country with a significant number of measles cases. Children who receive the vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses, both following the schedule for children listed above.

If your child is due for a vaccination, schedule an appointment with your CHI St. Joseph Health pediatrician. Staying up to date on vaccines is an easy and effective way to maintain good health.

Sources:

CDC | Measles History
CDC | Frequently Asked Questions about Measles in the U.S.
CDC |  Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know
CDC | Measles and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It
Healthline | Measles Hits Texas as Washington Outbreak Gets Worse
CDC | Signs and Symptoms
CDC | General Information for Immunocompromised Persons

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