Do You Need Another Dose of the MMR Vaccine?

The measles outbreaks have a lot of people concerned about measles.

And that means measles and vaccines are getting a lot of extra attention.

Unfortunately, getting extra attention doesn’t always translate into getting great advice, especially when it is leading a lot of folks into thinking they need to rush out and get another dose of MMR or to check their titers to make sure they are protected.

Do You Need Another Dose of the MMR Vaccine?

So are you protected against measles?

Have you had two doses of MMR? (Remember, kids typically get their first dose at age 12-15 months and a second dose when they are 4-6 years old, with early doses in high-risk situations.)

If you have documentation of two doses of MMR (or a measles containing vaccine), then you can confidently say that you are protected. No, it’s not 100% protection, but it’s close.

“Documented age-appropriate vaccination supersedes the results of subsequent serologic testing. If a person who has 2 documented doses of measles- or mumps-containing vaccines is tested serologically and is determined to have negative or equivocal measles or mumps titer results, it is not recommended that the person receive an additional dose of MMR vaccine. Such persons should be considered to have presumptive evidence of immunity.”

Prevention of Measles, Rubella, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, and Mumps, 2013: Summary Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

If you haven’t had two doses of MMR, then know that two doses are your best protection against measles.

Have you heard that people born before 1989 may need another dose?

What is the significance of the year 1989?

The recommendation to give a routine second dose of MMR started in 1990, so folks born much before then likely only had one dose, unless they were considered high risk and had the second dose before traveling out of the country, starting a healthcare job, or going to college, etc.

Instead of 1989, the typical cutoff year for protection is around 1986, since those kids would have been turning four years old in 1990, so would have gotten their second dose of MMR on schedule. If you were born before 1986, you would have started kindergarten before the recommendation to get a second dose.

The other years that are important are 1963 to 1967, as that’s when the very first measles vaccine was used, a vaccine that was later found to not be very effective. If that is the only time you were vaccinated, then you should be vaccinated again.

What about 1957?

In general, if you were born before 1957, we assume that you had measles because most people had measles back then. Maybe you didn’t though, so in a high-risk situation, like traveling out of the country or in the middle of an outbreak, this could be a good situation to check your measles titer to confirm that you are immune. If you aren’t, then get two doses of MMR.

How many doses of MMR have you had?
How many doses of MMR have you had?

So here are your scenarios:

  • Were you born before 1957? Then you probably had measles, but can check your titers to make sure you are immune, especially if you will be in a high-risk situation, like near an outbreak or traveling.
  • Did you get a dose of measles vaccine between 1963 and 1967? If this was your only dose, then you should get a dose of MMR now.
  • Did you get a measles vaccine between 1968 and 1971, before the MMR became available? That counts as a dose of measles containing vaccine. If that is your only dose, then you might get another dose of MMR, if you will be in a high-risk situation, like near an outbreak or traveling.
  • Have you only had only one dose of MMR or other measles containing vaccine, which is more likely if you were born well before 1990? Then get another dose of MMR if you will be in a high-risk situation, like near an outbreak or traveling.
  • Have you had two doses of MMR vaccine or or other measles containing vaccine (and have your immunization records to prove it)? Then you should be protected. You don’t need to check your titers and you don’t need a third dose of MMR.

What if you aren’t sure? Then get at least one more dose of MMR.

If you don’t think that you were ever vaccinated against measles, then you might get two doses of MMR.

If you aren’t sure, but think that you already were vaccinated, then this would be a good situation to check your titer. Be prepared to get your MMR vaccines again if you are negative though.

Do all adults need two doses of MMR?

Surprisingly no, although that is considered the best protection against measles, there was never a general catch up program for older folks with the recommendation to get a second dose in 1990. So if you have had one dose of MMR and aren’t at any extra risk to get measles – no travel, no nearby outbreaks, and not a health professional, etc., then one dose might be enough… for now.

More on MMR Vaccines

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