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Vaccines to Prevent Measles
Are the MMR and MMRV Vaccines Safe?
The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history that includes years of testing before a vaccine can be licensed, and ongoing monitoring for safety and effectiveness following its license and use. The MMR and MMRV shots are very safe and effective at preventing measles (as well as mumps and rubella—and varicella for the MMRV vaccine).
Scientists in the U.S. and other countries have carefully studied the MMR shot. No link has been found between autism and the MMR shot.
The measles vaccine is frequently administered via the MMR vaccine. The MMR is a combination vaccine protecting against measles, mumps, and rubella. It is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective.
It is recommended that children in the U.S. receive two doses:
• The first dose at 12–15 months of age
• The second dose before entering school, at 4–6 years of age
For adults in the U.S., the recommendation varies depending on age and risk factors:
• Anyone born during or after 1957 who has not had measles or been vaccinated is at risk and should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
• Two doses—separated by at least 28 days—are recommended for anyone falling into any of these categories:
o College students, trade school students, or other students beyond high school
o Hospital or other medical facility staff
o International travelers and passengers on a cruise ship
o Women of childbearing age
Your child’s health care provider may also offer the MMRV vaccine, which provides protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months to 12 years of age and may be used in place of MMR vaccine if varicella vaccination is also needed. Your child’s health care provider can help you decide which vaccine to use.
No federal vaccination laws exist, but all 50 states require certain vaccinations for children entering public schools. Find out about your state’s requirements.
Anyone who does not have evidence of measles immunity is at risk for measles during international travel. Check out the CDC’s recommendations and then discuss with your health care provider to see if you or your child (including children less than 12 months of age) should be vaccinated before traveling.
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. The virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of an infected person. Measles remains a common disease in many countries throughout the world, including some developed countries in Europe and Asia. While the disease is almost gone from the United States, measles still kills nearly 200,000 people each year globally.
Yes. Anyone can get measles. It is so contagious that anyone who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease.
When an infected person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The droplets can get into other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface. The virus can live on infected surfaces for up to two hours.
The symptoms of measles generally begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected, and include:
• Blotchy rash
• Runny nose
• Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
• Feeling run down, achy (malaise)
• Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots)
Measles can be a serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
When infected with measles, the following are some of the potentially serious complications:
• Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children and can result in permanent hearing loss
• As many as one out of every 20 children gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children
• About one child out of every 1,000 will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with an intellectual disability
• For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
• Pregnant women can give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby
To avoid potential complications from measles, your best defense is to get vaccinated.
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don’t have insurance, you can find out more about your options through the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, you may also be eligible for the Vaccines for Children program.
Vaccines may be available at private doctor offices, public or community health clinics, or other community locations (such as schools/universities, pharmacies, religious centers or places of worship). You can also use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder for accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services at clinics, pharmacies, and health departments.
Whether you are heading to your child’s first pediatrician visit or your own medical appointment, getting vaccinated is an easier process when you know what to expect. Find out exactly what you can expect before, during and after a visit for you or your child.
The risk of MMR or MMRV vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Getting MMR or MMRV vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella. However, vaccines, like any medication, may cause side effects. If you think that you or your child has a serious reaction, first contact your doctor or other health care provider.
You may also find out more about how to report a serious adverse reaction through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) or request compensation due to a serious injury you believe was caused by a vaccine through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.