As the recent measles outbreak that began at California's Disneyland spreads to more than 100 people in a dozen states, you may be wondering about your own immunity, as well as that of your kids. Do you have the protection you need?
Before the 1990s, the measles vaccine was given as one shot, but the recommendation changed to two after an outbreak in 1989, so you may be among those who never received that second dose and are now wondering whether you should get a so-called "booster shot" to protect yourself from this highly contagious respiratory disease.
Fortunately, if you received the measles vaccine in childhood, then you're well protected as an adult. Even with just a single dose in your system, you're still 95 percent protected, says Amesh Adalja, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a member of the public health committee at the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). "Immunity does wane a bit as we age, but at this point the recommendation for a measles booster doesn't extend to the general public," he explains.
Of course, getting a measles booster won't hurt—adding a second dose can increase its effectiveness to about 98%—and there are certain high-risk groups who need two doses, including health-care workers, college students, and those who plan to travel where measles is still a serious health problem. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the IDSA's recommendation: if you had a single dose but don't fall into one of these specific groups, you don't need a second one.
And if you're wondering about your own parents or grandparents, rest assured: Anyone born before 1957 is likely immune, in part because this population lived through several years of epidemic measles.
The bottom line? If you're unsure about your immunity, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine whether you have the necessary protective antibodies. But the priority now is not necessarily for adults to receive a booster, but rather to vaccinate all children with the two-dose shot at age 1 and again before kindergarten. —Jennifer Kelly Geddes
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in parenting, health and child development. She's a frequent contributor to Parents.com and the mom of two teen girls.
More About Measles
- Spot That Rash: What Measles Look Like
- Measles: What to Do if Your Child Is Exposed
- What to Do if You or Your Child Gets the Measles
- How to Protect Babies from Measles