Health Officials: Most Vaccinated Adults Are Protected From Measles, With Some Exceptions | Connecticut Public Radio

Health Officials: Most Vaccinated Adults Are Protected From Measles, With Some Exceptions

May 22, 2019
Originally published on May 22, 2019 10:27 am

Many adults are wondering if they should get re-vaccinated for measles, with more than 800 cases this year in the U.S.

Although very few of the cases have been reported in New England, public health officials are doubling down on their message to vaccinate children.

Health officials say most people older than 62 were probably already exposed to measles.

And those who were vaccinated as children, starting in 1957, are still protected.

But a small percentage of people born between 1963 and 1967 — around 5 percent of them — got a weaker version of the vaccine. That's when it was made using a killed virus.

Pediatrician Pamela Rockwell is a member of the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) vaccine advisory committee. She said several of her adult patients have asked to get their blood tested for measles immunity, and she understood their anxiety.

"So far, everybody's been 100 percent immune," Rockwell said. "But then you start to look at public health costs, and if everybody got an extra lab test, then what would that cost the country, and things like that."

So rather than screen everyone, Rockwell said adults who don't know their vaccine history can just get the current measles shot — combined with mumps and rubella in a vaccine, known as MMR — even if it turns out not to be necessary.

"When in doubt, I would say: vaccinate," Rockwell said, "because measles is a highly, highly infectious disease, and very devasting, potentially."

Most children currently get two measles shots. But health officials say people who only got one, which was common in the '70s and '80s, should still be fine — unless they have high risk of exposure.

Massachusetts has a high immunization rate overall. But western Massachusetts has pockets where parents are more likely to refuse vaccines for their kids.

Doctor Larry Madoff, with the state Department of Public Health, said that so far, measles outbreaks have mostly affected unvaccinated children

"Certainly, there have been some cases in adults, and even in vaccinated adults," Madoff said. "But that's been the exception rather than the rule."

While Madoff said there's no downside for adults to get a booster shot against measles and other diseases, he wants to keep the focus on vaccinating children.

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