How to avoid measles during an outbreak

Fact Checked

The increase in the number of measles cases as well as the outbreaks has left many wondering if their children are at risk. Many understand that measles is a preventable disease through vaccination, but some are not truly certain when their children are fully protected against measles.

The measles vaccination provides protection against measles but those who refuse the vaccine or delay the administration might put their children at risk.

Risk factors for measles

Some children who are caught up in the measles outbreaks are not vaccinated since they are too young to be vaccinated. Other children who are at risk for measles include the following:

Measles
Infants face a risk for measles until they receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine.
  • Those who are unvaccinated since they have a medical contraindication to getting the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine such as those who are immunocompromised including children who are undergoing cancer chemotherapy or high doses of steroids.
  • Immunocompromised even if the MMR vaccine was given including children receiving cancer chemotherapy
  • Partially vaccinated since the booster dose for MMR vaccine was not given

Since a small percentage of measles cases require hospitalization and even consulting a doctor or bringing the child to the emergency room due to the high fever, it can put other children in the emergency room or hospital with immune system issues at risk if they were not carefully separated. It is sad to note that when parents bring their child with measles to the emergency room or doctor, they rarely suspect that it is measles, thus exposing others during the contagious stage of the disease.

Vaccination for measles

Since children are customarily immunized against measles with the MMR vaccine when they reach 12-15 months old (initial dose) and at 4-6 years (booster dose), it simply means that:

  • Infants face a risk for measles until they receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers are at risk for measles since they are only partially immune after they receive their first MMR shot (until the booster dose is given).

Since measles vaccination with 2 doses of MMR is the ideal way to acquire immunity, is it possible to receive these shots as early as possible? It is important to note that there are certain scenarios when it is recommended for children to be given the MMR vaccine earlier than the ideal immunization schedule, particularly those who are travelling outside the country. Children who are at least 12 months old must receive 2 doses of MMR separated by at least 28 days.

According to the CDC, if a number of cases are befalling infants younger than 12 months old, the vaccination for measles as early as 6 months old can be started as a measure to control the outbreak. On the other hand, children who receive the MMR vaccine before 12 months old are still required to receive a repeat shot when they reach 12 months old since early doses are considered less effective.

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