While children are the most important group to reach, some adults should also consider a second measles vaccine, according to the CDC
There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
With measles outbreaks occurring in 24 states this year, many adults are wondering if they should get a vaccine booster.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans who get two doses of the measles vaccine are protected for life and do not need a booster,” says says Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad.
But if you only had one measles vaccine as a child and are in a high-risk transmission setting — that means college students, healthcare personnel, international travelers and people who live in a neighborhood or community that is experiencing a measles outbreak — you should get a second vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another group that may want to consider getting a booster, according to Stork, is older adults. “The measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, and some early versions of the vaccine were not as effective as those offered today,” he says.
Otherwise, as long as you have “evidence of immunity,” you are considered protected for life by the CDC. That includes anyone who received two doses of measles vaccine as a child, as well as people born before 1957. (Nearly everyone contracted measles back then — and once you get it, you’re immune). Similarly, if you have a lab record showing you’ve had the measles, or are otherwise immune to it, you are considered protected.
Of course, some people might not have their actual vaccination records. Without written documentation of measles immunity, you can either get a simple blood test done at your doctor’s office, or just get vaccinated. That’s the best thing you can do if you are truly unsure. “There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella),” states the CDC on its website.
Even if you are exposed to the measles, it’s “very unlikely” that you will get sick if you have been vaccinated, according to Dr. Stork. “Only about three out of 100 people who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus, and those will have a much milder illness and are less likely to spread the disease to others.”
People who should not receive the vaccine include pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, vaccine allergies, tuberculosis or who have received a blood transfusion recently.
So far this year, 880 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 24 states, the largest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
Though measles were considered eradicated in this country thanks to the measles vaccine, the disease is spreading in areas where people go unvaccinated. This is partially due to the spread of misinformation about the vaccine, which has led some parents to opt out of giving children the life-saving protections.