That translates into about 500,000 reported cases each year. Technically, it was likely closer to about 4 million cases in the United States each year, but either way, we know that lots of people got measles.
Then we got a measles vaccine and not surprisingly, cases of measles dropped. Except for a small uptick from 1989 to 1991, we were on our way to eliminating measles.
And we did, in 2000, when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States. From then on, all measles cases were imported.
In 2004, we had an historic low of just 37 measles cases in the United States!
And from 2000 to 2012, we averaged just 87 measles cases each year, which is far below the US average of 283 cases we are now seeing.
No, measles never completely left. It was not eradicated.
But it is certainly making a comeback and soaring to levels that we haven’t seen since 1992!
Just think about it… We had 37 cases of measles in 2004 and this year, we often had 37 cases in a single week!
With the rise in measles cases this year, folks are asking when they routinely get the measles vaccine to help make sure they are vaccinated and protected.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.
When Do You Get the Measles Vaccine?
Well, there kind of is.
Today, we routinely give:
the first dose of the measles vaccine (MMR) when toddlers are 12 to 15 months old, and
the second dose of MMR when they are 4 to 6 years old
However, if you are at high risk to get measles, especially if you are planning to travel out of the country or to specific areas with active outbreaks, you should get those doses early.
Early Doses of MMR
As early as age six months.
In fact, high-risk infants 6 through 11 months of age should receive one early dose of MMR vaccine, a dose that will have to be repeated when they are 12 months old. This early dose is mostly about international travel though and not travel within the United States, unless there is a specific recommendation in a local area.
“For outbreaks with sustained, community-wide transmission affecting infants <12 months of age and with ongoing risk of exposures to infants, health departments may consider vaccination of infants aged 6-11 months in these affected areas (including visitors) with 1 dose of MMR vaccine. This recommendation should be made following careful assessment of the benefit of early protection against measles during a period of increased transmission and exposure, and risk of decreased immune response following subsequent MMR doses in infants vaccinated at <12 months of age compared with infants vaccinated at ≥12 months of age.”
Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
And children 1 to 3 years of age who are high-risk should receive two doses of MMR vaccine (instead of waiting to get the second dose when they are 4-6 years old), separated by at least 28 days.
This second dose doesn’t have to be repeated though.
When Did We Use to Give the Measles Vaccine?
Still, more than a review of the current immunization schedule, most folks want to know when we used to get vaccinated against measles. That’s what might help you figure out if you are vaccinated and protected.
Hopefully, you can just check your shot records too.
It might also help to know that we began:
giving the first measles vaccine in 1963. This doesn’t count as a dose of measles vaccine though, as it didn’t provide long-lasting protection.
giving the first improved, live measles vaccine in 1967.
If you haven’t had two doses and are at high risk to get measles, get caught up and protected. Keep in mind that you don’t need to check your titers first and you won’t need a third dose of MMR. Titers might be a good idea if you were born before 1957 and aren’t sure if you had a natural case of measles.
“The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from measles is by getting vaccinated. You should plan to be fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks before you depart. If your trip is less than 2 weeks away and you’re not protected against measles, you should still get a dose of MMR vaccine.”
Before international travel: Make sure you’re protected against measles
Lastly, if possible, try to get your second dose of MMR at least two weeks before your trip.
This one, also centered in the Pacific Northwest, began with exposures to a traveler with measles at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on April 25.
“A Canadian resident from British Columbia who traveled to the Seattle area in late April 2019 has been diagnosed with measles. The traveler, a man in his 40s, has since recovered from his illness.
Prior to arriving in King County, he spent time in Japan and New York during the period that he was infected, two places that currently have measles outbreaks. This case has no connection to the recently-ended measles outbreak based in Clark County, Washington state.
While he was infectious with measles, he spent time in the Seattle area at several locations, including popular tourist attractions and Sea-Tac Airport. Anyone who does not have immunity to measles through vaccination or from previously having measles is at risk for infection if they were at a location of measles exposure.”
43 are in Michigan, mostly among Oakland County’s Orthodox Jewish community, triggered by a man who had recently traveled from New York
So just over 80% of cases are associated with four outbreaks, one of which has been declared over, and mostly among children and adults who were intentionally not vaccinated.
The rest of the 200 cases?
They are spread out in smaller outbreaks in other states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.