A sudden resurgence of the measles in major cities across the United States and Canada has many people urging new parents to ensure their children are vaccinated against the potential life-threatening disease. Measles, which was completely eradicated in the US as of 2000 thanks to vaccines, is now back with many blaming vaccine hesitancy for the recent spike in cases. However while many are ensuring their children are protected against the disease, adults should also be checking their own immunization records to see if they too need a measles booster.
CTV News is warning that many adults may be unaware that their measles immunity has worn off, leaving them vulnerable when they think they're protected. The news station notes that Canadians who were born between the years 1970 and 1996 may have only received one dose of the MMR vaccine that protects against measles.
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, spoke to TODAY and explained why some adults might need a booster to ensure immunity. He states that those born before 1957 more than likely have had the measles, although most probably had a mild case, and because of that they are naturally immune.
However, if you were born between 1967 and 1991, you may need a booster. While the CDC states the vaccination program began in 1963 and improved by 1967, only one dose was routinely given until a second dose was suggested in 1991.
“If you received one dose, you have about a 90 percent chance of being protected. Which is to say, if you were born between 1967 and 1991, you have a 90 percent chance of being protected,” Offit stated. “If you were born after 1991 and have received both doses, you have about a 97 percent chance of being protected.”
CTV notes that measles, mumps and rubella immunity can be easily tested through a simple blood test, and if you're found to not be immune you can receive a booster. Dr. Offit suggests getting a booster if you feel you may no longer be immune, especially if you're traveling.
“I would say probably the thing that makes the most sense is that if you were going to an area where measles is common, like Europe for example, it would probably be reasonable to get a measles-containing vaccine.”
If you were born between 1963 and 1991, there's a big chance you received only one dose of the vaccine, and receiving a booster won't be harmful to your health.
“So you could argue, ‘Although I have a 90 percent chance of being protected, I can put myself in an even better position by getting a booster dose,’” Offit said. He also noted that even if you are exposed to the disease, a booster can significantly reduce symptoms. “If you get the measles vaccine within 48 hours of being exposed, you dramatically decrease your chances of being infected. It’s actually recommended for up to five days later, but the best data are in the first 48 hours,” Offit added.
If you're unsure if you are immune and should receive a measles booster, you should contact your doctor for further advice.