Measles Vaccination Time Moved Up

Last Editorial Review: 10/28/2002

As parents know who have had a child in school, kids can pick up a lot of things there aside from learning. They get all kinds of diseases. Colds, coughs, the flu, you name it, even measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles, for one, is not a trivial disease. It is commonly complicated by ear infections, pneumonia, and sometimes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Measles encephalitis is a particular worry since it can cause convulsions, mental retardation, and even death.

The way to prevent measles is through vaccination. The standard vaccine is MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. It is given in two dosages.

The first MMR shot should be given at or just after the first birthday when the child is 12 to 15 months old.

The past recommendation (prior to 1998) for the second shot was that it be given when the child was 11 or 12 years of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in 1998, recommended moving up the time of the second shot so it comes at ages 4 to 6.

The reason for this recommendation is to ensure that schoolchildren are fully immunized against measles, mumps and rubella. There have been recurrent outbreaks of measles (and some outbreaks of rubella) in school-age children. Although most of the children in these outbreaks had had one MMR shot, a single shot does not give complete immunity against measles to all children.

The change in timing of the second immunization, it is hoped, will help wipe out measles (and mumps and rubella, too).

For current vaccination information for children and adults, please visit the Immunizations (Vaccinations) Center.

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