Measles vaccine protects students, classrooms, and communities - Primary Health

Measles vaccine protects students, classrooms, and communities

  • August 16, 2023

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 2 minutes

Back-to-school is the perfect time to check immunization records, especially for measles, and catch up on missing doses.

Modern medicine has made major strides in reducing the incidence of various childhood infections; measles is an excellent example of this. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, measles epidemics occurring every three to four years caused about 2.6 million deaths a year. WHO reports indicate that figure for 2021 fell to 128,000 deaths. 

Measles, caused by a virus, is among the most contagious human infections known. Epidemiologists measure infectivity using a standard called the Secondary Attack Rate (SAR). SAR measures how many people exposed to an infected patient will get infected through them. With measles, that is as high as 90 percent. Infection results in high fevers and a rash that can last up to a week. Deaths from measles result from complications like pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and dehydration. It can also cause permanent disabilities like loss of vision or hearing. 

Fortunately, the measles vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent disease. A single dose is 97 percent effective with two doses and costs just a dollar for a dose. The vaccine is often administered as a component of the MMR vaccine, which stands for Measles, Mumps and Rubella. The MMR vaccine helps build immunity against all three diseases. 

Gaps in measles vaccine coverage

Unfortunately, measles vaccination rates have faltered. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a large gap in measles vaccine coverage. In 2021, an estimated 40 million children missed their regular measles vaccination dose. Due to its high SAR, a vaccine coverage of 95 percent or greater is needed to protect communities by breaking measles transmission. In 2019, the United States reported 1,274 cases of measles, its highest figure since 1992.

One way to help children get caught up with measles vaccination is to check immunization records at the start of the school season. This helps students who may have missed a dose but also helps protect school going children at increased risk who may not be vaccinated. For patients who are unsure of their measles immunization status, there is a blood test that can measure antibody levels to determine if they are immune to measles or not.

In conclusion, as we launch into the season where kids return to schools and colleges across the country, we remind everyone to check in about their vaccination coverage gaps. It is a simple way to keep kids safe and keep everyone around them safe, too. 

Primary.Health streamlines immunization management and helps schools and communities close vaccine gaps. Learn more

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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