"Do I need another measles shot?"
In light of this year's large measles outbreak I'm getting this question frequently from adults. Mostly these questions come from people over the age of 40 who are not 100% sure of their vaccine status and didn't have measles as children.
The simple answer to this question is "NO," but there are some variations on this answer. The vast majority of adults in the U.S. are immune to measles. Once vaccinated (or if you had the measles - which includes almost everyone born before 1957), you generally have lifelong immunity.
However, there are a few people who may need a new shot. When the measles vaccine first came out in 1963 there were two versions. Both were imperfect, and a better version came out in 1968 which became the standard vaccine, though it was given as a single dose. In 1989 it became a 2 dose regimen which conferred 97% immunity.
If you received vaccinations between 1963 and 1968 you may not have perfect immunity. Fortunately, there is a blood test for this which I'm happy to order for my current patients. The alternative is to simply get a booster vaccine from your local pharmacy. For most of us this probably isn't terribly important because the risk of exposure remains low. If you work with children or people who are immune compromised, OR if you are at risk of exposure to the current outbreak (for instance, if you live in one of the areas where it's currently spreading) please get checked or get the a booster. People traveling to countries where the measles are still endemic might also consider this.
One of the 7 key principles of Naturopathic Medicine is prevention. Though measles is an infection that most people get through without incident (though it is very unpleasant) it is HIGHLY contagious and there are some people do get very sick with encephalitis. There is a risk of death, particularly in young children. The vaccine is well tolerated and effective and as a naturopath I urge people to ensure they are not at risk of getting, and spreading, this preventable disease.