Measles Vaccine: What You Should Know

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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You may be aware of the recent measles outbreaks that are taking parts of the country by storm. We are only halfway through the second month of 2015 and there have already been 121 cases reported in 17 states according to the CDC (as of February 6, 2015).

The recent increase in cases of measles, a disease that was documented as eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, is causing a lot of parents to rethink their decision to not vaccinate their children.

What are measles?

Measles is an infectious viral disease that typically occurs in childhood. It presents as a red rash on the skin along with a fever.

What are the common symptoms?

Symptoms of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and a rash.

How long does it take for the symptoms of measles to appear once infected?

The symptoms of measles will typically appear within 7 to 14 days of infection.

How long does measles typically last?

The mild illness (fever, cough, sore throat, etc.) associated with the start of measles usually only lasts between 2 and 3 days.

However, a fever and rash will then present and spread down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs, and feet. Gradually after a few days the rash will begin to disappear starting at the face and working its way down.

What vaccinations are available for measles?

The measles vaccine is available in combination with vaccinations for mumps, rubella, and/or varicella. You are unable to get a measles-only vaccine—they do not exist.

As a parent you have two options for your child:

What is the vaccination schedule for measles?

The measles vaccine should be given for a total of 2 doses. The first dose of the measles vaccination is recommended for children 12 – 15 months of age, and the second for children 4 – 6 years of age.

The vaccination is also typically required for post-high school institutions such as college. If you did not receive the measles vaccination as a child, you can still get both doses by spacing the first and second doses 28 days apart.

You may also get the measles vaccination as an adult if you don’t have evidence of immunity—at least one dose is recommended.

If I get the measles vaccination am I 100% protected from measles?

No. Unfortunately, no vaccination can guarantee 100% protection against the disease. However, one dose of the measles vaccine is 93% effective and two doses are 97% effective.

If you do end up getting measles despite being vaccinated the disease will be much milder and less contagious.

Are there advantages to getting the MMRV (ProQuad) versus MMR (M-M-R II) vaccine?

The MMRV vaccine (ProQuad) has extra protection for varicella, better known as chickenpox. If you choose the ProQuad vaccine you do not need to vaccinate your child with VariVax, which is the additional vaccine for chickenpox.

Want more information?

For more on M-M-R II please see the manufacturer website here.

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