Do Adults Need a Measles Vaccine? Experts Say It Depends

Grant Boone
May 1, 2019

The United States recorded 78 new measles cases last week for a total of 704 cases so far this year, the greatest number in a quarter century, federal health officials have said. Still, there are several hundred cases of measles in the USA each year, including more than 600 in 2014. The costs are much higher for measles outbreaks on a national scale: Researchers say that the 2011 outbreak, when there were 16 separate outbreaks and 107 confirmed cases of measles, cost state and local health institutions somewhere between $2.7 million to $5.3 million. The CDC defines an outbreak as three or more cases.

In 1989, a two-dose vaccination schedule was adopted in the United States. She tells Health that the CDC recommends that adults who were vaccinated between 1963 and 1967 get the MMR vaccine.

Some adults may need a new dose depending on whether they received the recommended two doses of the live virus or if they are travelling into and out of outbreak areas. "Currently the recommendation is anybody born 1957 or before is considered to have had the disease or been exposed to it at some point and time in the past, so they are considered to be immune", said Dr. Jay Zdunek, chief medical officer for Austin Regional Clinic.

Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a health emergency and ordered unvaccinated people living or working in four ZIP codes in the largely haredi Orthodox-populated Williamsburg neighborhood to get the vaccine or be required to pay fines of up to $1,000. In fact, the CDC says that most people born before 1957 don't need the vaccine because "before vaccines were available, almost everyone was infected with measles, mumps, and rubella viruses during childhood".

"Certainly you know, this was a case from New Brunswick that was in one of our facilities, but if we start to see other cases that is significant and will require us to have ongoing follow-up", she explained.

But outbreaks have surfaced throughout the country over the past few months, affecting more than 700 people.

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Health officials are also recommend infants 6 through 11 months receive one dose of the vaccine before global travel. "Vaccines are safe because they are among the most studied medical products we have", Azar said. "I don't think the religious exemption in this case with measles trumps the public health concern". Those people are infection risks, and short-term limitations of where they can go and who they can meet are legally and medically appropriate, Gostin said.

"If for any reason you have never had a dose of MMR vaccine now is the time to get one". For anyone who's unsure, the CDC says you can simply roll up your sleeve for another dose or two.

The spread of the disease - which thus far has hit unvaccinated children under five years of age the hardest - would have been absolutely unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

According to the CDC, one dose of MMR is 93% effective against measles. "The way to prevent those older people from getting measles is to make sure all the kids are vaccinated".

The 15-minute, $49 test reveals if you have enough antibodies to fight measles.

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