MMR FAQs: Your Top 6 MMR Questions

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As themeasles outbreakcontinues to escalate, families are asking smart questions about vaccine protection for their family.

Here are the answers to 6 of your most common questions.

Can an infant be around someone who has gotten the MMR vaccine?

Yes. The MMR is a live, attenuated vaccine, so there is no concern about transmitting a disease-causing virus from a recently vaccinated individual.

I know I got my MMR vaccine years ago. But, how do I know if my measles protection is still good?

For the vast majority of US adults, written proof of one vaccine assumes adequate protection. There will be a few people, however, in which the expected response to the vaccine does not occur. 

To ensure that your body is protected from measles, there is a blood test that can be performed. A measles titer provides evidence that your body has protective measles antibodies to keep you from getting sick. Titers are typically recommended only if a person has been exposed to measles, works in secondary education, or works in healthcare.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.36.40 PM

Should my fully-vaccinated, pre-school-aged kiddo get a second MMR vaccine now, or wait until she is 4 years old?

At this time, it is not recommended the second dose of the vaccine be given earlier than 4 years. The vast majority of kids get 95% protection after one vaccine dose given after the 1st birthday, so an earlier booster is simply not needed. That’s pretty great. If you are traveling internationally or to an area with a known outbreak, talk with your doc about getting the second dose early. The minimum time between dose 1 and 2 is 4 weeks.

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I am traveling to California for spring break. When is the soonest my baby can get the MMR vaccine?

For children traveling internationally or to an area of the country with a known outbreak, the first MMR can be given as early as 6 months of age. This travel dose of vaccine will be considered an “extra” dose of vaccine. The baby will still need a dose at 12 months and 4 years to complete the series.

If someone had measles as a child, do they have immunity for life?

Yes.

My son is too young to get vaccinated, but I am breast feeding. If I get the MMR vaccine, will that help to protect him?

If your MMR is up-to-date, then you already are offering him measles protection in your breast milk. Your son will get brief protection from this passive exposure, but won’t make his own antibodies against measles until he gets the MMR. It is safe to get the MMR vaccine while breastfeeding if you are not sure you have been protected. 

Bonus: This question came from a 10-year-old patient in clinic.

I’ve been hearing a lot about ebola and measles on the news. Is measles like ebola?

Both measles and ebola are diseases that make people very sick. The germ that causes both measles and ebola is a virus. Virus-germs cannot be killed with antibiotics, so these diseases are very serious if someone gets infected. Special doctors who are trained to take care of people with virus infections try to help those sick people get better.

For most 4th graders in Kansas, there are 2 really important differences between measles and ebola. First, you are not going to get ebola from sitting next to someone in your school. You can, however, get measles that way. Which leads to the second really important difference - measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. This means the shots you got as a younger kid have given your body a shield of protection so you don’t get sick. We are waiting for smart scientists to discover this type of shield for ebola, but we don’t have it yet.

We need to be prepared and protected as measles cases climb. Talk with your doc if you have additional questions or concerns. 

Thanks to pediatric-infectious-disease-extraordinaire, Dr. Jason Newland, for fact-checking these answers. Follow Dr. Newland on Twitter @JasonGNewland for great health information. AND - if you are as passionate about responsible antibiotic use as Dr. Newland, follow @sharpsgroup, too.