Measles cases flare up on occasion, with the most recent outbreak in Champaign-Urbana occurring in early 2019. Which naturally leads many parents to wonder if their child is at risk. The answer is, if they’ve been vaccinated they are pretty safe.
But what if they are too young to receive the vaccine, or are immuno-compromised?
Although there may not be official recommendations for parents to keep their unvaccinated children at home during an outbreak, Daniel Bronson-Lowe, formerly an Infection Preventionist at Carle Foundation Hospital, said, “It’s a decision that parents have to make for themselves depending on what’s going on in their area.”
“Don’t take them somewhere where people are sick. If there are outbreaks in your daycare facility, (taking your child there) would be something to reconsider,” he said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.
There are no booster shots for measles. The MMR vaccine is a two-dose series — the second dose is given to try to protect anyone who didn’t become immune the first time.
It might also comfort parents to know that according to Illinois State Board of Education records for 2018-19, 98.08 percent of students in both public and non-public schools in Illinois received the MMR vaccine.
Bronson-Lowe said the measles vaccine or MMR is one of the “best vaccines that we have.” It’s 95 percent effective with one dose and 98 percent effective with two doses.
Adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. The CDC says one vaccination is enough for an adult who is not at-risk (ie. not a college student, health care personnel, or international traveler.)
Bronson-Lowe said infants 6 months or older can receive the vaccine but it’s not considered a valid dose. Parents would still have to follow the recommended schedule and get another shot at 12 months of age and then a third vaccine between the ages of 4-6 to be fully protected from the disease.
Children under six months of age cannot receive the vaccine. However, Bronson-Lowe said moms who are immune pass on those antibodies to their infants, which largely protects them from the disease for the first several months of their life.
Measles was “eradicated” in the U.S. in 2000 but the virus has been on the uptick over the last couple of years. There were over 1,282 cases of measles in the U.S. in 2019.