With the recent outbreaks of measles in the news and because it is a trending Twitter topic in the healthcare community, I want to take the opportunity to discuss measles and its impact on our children, especially infants. This is certainly a topic expecting parents need to be aware of and think about what their plans are for their family.
In Dallas County, nearly all children are vaccinated, according to official reports. But as many as 1 in 8 students in some Collin County and Denton County schools have not received all mandated vaccinations.
Measles is the most contagious infectious disease we know. This is not the same disease as German measles or rubella. We test for evidence of immunity for that type of measles during pregnancy and vaccinate unprotected women after delivery.
Childhood vaccination is the best protection against measles. Research has shown that one shot of the vaccine is 93 percent effective against the disease. Two doses (the original immunization and one booster dose) are 97 percent effective.
We typically recommend the first dose around age 1 and the second dose between ages 4 and 6.
In fact, the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is one of medicine’s greatest success stories, and measles is considered a vaccine-preventable disease.
Does the MMR vaccine have side effects?
Some side effects of the MMR vaccine include fever, rash, irritability, and, in rare cases, seizure. However, none of these side effects are long-lasting or result in permanent damage.
What is the risk of having unvaccinated children in schools, day care centers, and other public locations?
Unvaccinated children are at high risk for contracting the disease and spreading it to others. This is especially important if you are bringing home a new baby to older siblings who are not vaccinated and are at risk for coming down with measles. If your child is of age, I strongly encourage parents to get him or her vaccinated.
What does the scientific literature say about the measles vaccine and autism?
There is no data that shows a connection between vaccinations and autism. A study published in a 1998 edition of The Lancet that suggested a connection between MMR vaccination and autism has been retracted and disproven, after it was determined that the physicians who made the original allegations acted unethically and had financial conflicts of interest.
Who is most at risk for becoming infected with measles?
- Children under age 1 because they are too young to receive the MMR vaccine.
- Individuals with compromised immune systems – such as chemotherapy patients and transplant patients – because they are ineligible to receive the vaccine or because they have a weakened immune system.
I’m not sure if I was vaccinated as a child. Can I be vaccinated while pregnant?
The MMR is a live, attenuated vaccine and should not be given to pregnant women. However, if you are not pregnant, but considering having a child in the future, you could ask your Ob/Gyn to check your immunity status for both measles and rubella and be vaccinated before you become pregnant.
The best way to protect those who are vulnerable is to vaccinate their family, caregivers, and anyone else they come in close, regular contact with.
If you have questions, please talk to your doctor.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn contributed to this article.