Measles is an infectious disease that is caused by a virus and generally affects children. Also known as rubeola, measles has the potential to be very serious or even fatal for small children. Although this used to be a very common disease, now it is very easy to prevent most cases of this disease through the use of vaccinations. Because of the measles vaccination, the United States averages only about 60 cases of measles a year. However, outside of the country where vaccination rates are much lower, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five.
Who should be vaccinated?
Measles can now be prevented, with up to a 97% effectiveness, using the MMR vaccination. MMR is an abbreviation for measles, mumps, and rubella, which are the three diseases this shot prevents. The CDC recommends that all children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first dose at twelve to fifteen months of age, and the second dose at four to six years old.
Even though the measles is more common in children, it is still good for adults to be vaccinated against the disease as well. For students who are attending a post-high school education institution and do not have evidence of immunity against the measles, two doses of the MMR vaccine will be necessary, separated by at least 28 days. Other adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.
Since there are other parts of the world that are not as protected against the measles as the United States, international travelers over six months of age should all be properly vaccinated against measles before traveling.
What are the risks of vaccination?
There are certain things that should be considered before you or your child receives the MMR vaccine. These include:
- Allergies: If you or your child has ever had any unusual or allergic reactions to any medications, let your doctor know before receiving the vaccination. Also, let them know if there are any other allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals.
- Pediatric: Receiving the MMR vaccine is not recommended for infants who are younger than one year old. This is because antibodies that infants receive from their mothers before birth can interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine.
- Pregnancy: Studies have shown that it may be unsafe for pregnant women to receive the MMR vaccine.
- Breastfeeding: Studies have shown that mothers receiving the vaccine while breastfeeding may pose a minimal risk to the newborn.
- Drug interactions: There are several drugs that have to potential to create an adverse reaction if they are being taken at the time that the MMR vaccine is received. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all medications that you are taking to ensure that you are not taking any of the medications associated with this risk factor.
- Other interactions: Using alcohol or tobacco can sometimes cause drug interactions to occur as well. Make sure your doctor is aware of any drug use before administering the vaccination.
- Medical problems: Finally, certain medical conditions can affect the effectiveness of this vaccine. For example, an immune deficiency condition (or a family history of this condition) can make the side effects of the vaccination more severe, or decrease the effectiveness. Also, if you are running a fever or suffering from an illness, you may not be able to recognize some of the dangerous side effects of the vaccination.