Who needs an adult measles booster shot? | WBEZ
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Who needs an adult measles booster shot?

If you’re an adult of a certain age, the measles vaccine you received as a child might not be enough.

In the wake of the spreading measles outbreak that hit a local day care center last week, officials say some adults may need to get measles boosters or be re-vaccinated.

Related: Chicago falls below safe levels for measles vaccination

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the only people who can be presumed immune are the following:

  • Those with “documentation” of receiving a “live measles virus containing vaccine”
  • Those with “laboratory evidence of immunity” (determined through a test doctors can administer called a titer)
  • Those with “laboratory confirmation of [having survived the] disease”    
  • Those born before 1957

“Persons who do not have documentation of adequate vaccination or other acceptable evidence of immunity should be vaccinated,” the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said in its 2013 report.

Lurie Children’s Hospital pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Tina Tan said it’s also important for adults, especially those in contact with children, to know if they got two doses of the vaccine.  

“If you have an adult person who is worried about measles and doesn’t know whether or not they’ve received two doses of the vaccine, they should see their physician,” Tan said. “If for some reason they are not able to find out if they got two doses it's not going to hurt them to get a booster dose to protect themselves.”

Between 1963 and 1967, U.S. doctors were administering both “killed” and “live” measles vaccines to their patients. Later, it was discovered that the “killed” vaccine was not effective. So, the CDC suggests that “People who were vaccinated prior to 1968 with either inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type should be re-vaccinated with at least one dose of live attenuated measles vaccine.”

Tan says this is important not just for an adult’s health.

“One of the reasons for adults to get vaccinated is basically to prevent them from getting the disease,” she said. “But also to protect young infants that may be around who are too young to be vaccinated.”

The double dosage of measles vaccine is especially important, the CDC report states, “for students attending colleges or other post-high school education institutions, health care personnel and international travelers.”

Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org

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