Should adults get a measles booster shot?

With the recent measles outbreak there’s a lot of information being shared about vaccinating children. But, how do adults know if they’re protected, or if they could benefit from a booster shot?

It’s common protocol for children to have two doses of the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine:  one dose between 12 and 15 months and a second booster between four and six years old.

However, most adults have only had one or no vaccine. One dose of the MMR vaccine is considered about 93 percent effective at preventing measles, while two doses raises effectiveness to 97 percent. The 3 percent of the population that is fully vaccinated but still vulnerable to catching measles would still have a milder version of measles, if exposed.

How do I know if I’m protected from measles?

The vast majority of Americans are considered immune to measles, either because they were vaccinated or they had measles before. You’re considered covered if you:

  • have immunization records documenting that you have received two doses of the MMR vaccine at any point in your life;
  • had a blood test confirming immunity against measles at any point in your life;
  • had a blood test confirming you had measles at some time in your life; or
  • were born before 1957.

You do not need to receive an MMR booster vaccine if any of the above is true.

If you can’t find any immunization or blood test records, talk to your doctor about getting a booster or a blood test to check your immunity.

Do I need a booster shot?

If you have documentation of only one dose of the MMR vaccine, you can ask your doctor whether you should have a booster vaccination.

For adults, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a second dose of the MMR vaccine if:

  • you’re a student at a higher education institution;
  • you work in at a healthcare institution, like a hospital; or
  • you travel internationally.

The second dose of the vaccine should be administered no earlier than 28 days past the first dose.

Measles is a highly contagious, yet easily preventable, disease if we all take the proper precautions.

Traveling internationally? Check with your doctor to see if you should get a measles booster.

By Lauren Parmer, DO, a family medicine practitioner at Pasadena Primary Care within Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Pasadena Pavilion. To reach her office, call 443-270-8600.

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