Health officials are now stressing the importance of immunization and MMR revaccination in adults.

By Stacey Leasca
Updated April 29, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

As the number of reported measles cases continues to rise across 22 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are stressing the importance of immunization and MMR revaccination in adults. As of April 26, the CDC confirmed a grand total of 704 cases of measles since the beginning of 2019—a figure that marks the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since the elimination of measles in 2000.

“Stopping these measles outbreaks is a priority for CDC and we are working 24/7 to protect Americans from this contagious disease,” wrote the CDC in a recent statement. And the best way to stop the outbreak, according to the CDC, is through vaccination. “Today, the overwhelming majority of parents choose to protect their children with vaccines, and we’ve seen high and stable immunization rates in the U.S. for several years,” the statement read.

Children aren't the only individuals at risk if not fully immunized against the highly contagious disease. As a preventative measure, teenagers and adults alike may need to revisit their own MMR vaccination record to ensure they're still protected against measles. Unsure of whether you're in need of an additional dose of the measles vaccine? Consider paying a visit to your doctor if any of the following descriptions are applicable to you:

1. If you’re unsure of whether or not you received the MMR vaccine

“Individuals who aren't sure if they received the vaccine (because they were born before 1957) or unsure if they have natural immunity can have their level of immunity tested by their physician," says Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a Preparedness Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development, and associate research scientist with the Program on Population Impact Recovery and Resilience at NYU's College of Global Public Health. According to Piltch-Loeb, a doctor may order a lab test, which will indicate if an adult is still immune to measles. If there is no evidence of immunity to the virus, another dose of the vaccine can be administered. This second dose, Piltch-Loeb notes, would be a “booster” to the first dose to increase a person’s own immune response to measles.

2. If you were vaccinated before 1989

Children born after 1989 likely received two doses of the vaccine, as recommended by the CDC. However, individuals born between 1963 and 1989 likely only received one dose. And just one does is only 93-percent effective in protecting a person from measles. This is yet another instance where a lab test can determine a person’s immunity and if a booster shot is necessary.

3. If you received the “killed” version of the vaccine

If your vaccination record shows you received the measles vaccine between 1963 and 1967, you may want to talk to your doctor about a MMR booster shot. “It's possible you received a version of the measles vaccine called the ‘killed’ version that's no longer in use, and that you didn't develop an effective immune response to measles,” Piltch-Loeb says. “If a lab test shows you do not have measles immunity, you can get another dose of the updated measles vaccine which was introduced in the late 1960s.”

4. If you’re a student, healthcare professional or international traveler

While two doses of the vaccine are recommended for children, a single dose of the measles vaccine should be sufficient for an adult. Unless, of course, that adult is a member of what the CDC deems a "high-risk" group. “High-risk adults include international travelers, healthcare personnel, and students at post-secondary institutions,” Piltch-Loeb explains. “These groups should still receive two doses of the vaccine if there is no evidence of immunity or previously receiving the vaccine.” As both the CDC and Piltch-Loeb explain, the absolute best way to protect yourself, and those around you, from contracting measles is to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor about any personal risks and discuss a vaccine schedule that may be right for you.