Sunday June 16, 2019

U.S. Measles Outbreak Raises Concerns About Immunity in Adults

This has occurred even in adults with two documented doses of the vaccine, said Dr. Michael Phillips, chief epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, which serves parts of New York City, a hot spot in the U.S. outbreak.

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People vaccinated in the United States since 1989 would most likely have received two doses of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot under federal guidelines, and that is still considered the standard for protection. Pixabay

Adults in the United States who were vaccinated against measles decades ago may need a new dose depending on when they received the shot and their exposure risk, according to public health experts battling the nation’s largest outbreak since the virus was deemed eliminated in 2000.

Up to 10 percent of the 695 confirmed measles cases in the current outbreak occurred in people who received one or two doses of the vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The figure illustrates what can happen when a large number of individuals, even those who have been vaccinated, are exposed to the measles. CDC recommends that people who are living in or traveling to outbreak areas should check their vaccination status and consider getting a new dose.

Dr. Allison Bartlett, an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago Medicine, said the “continued vulnerability to infection” is why high-risk adults such as healthcare workers are routinely advised to get a second dose of the measles vaccine if they have not had one.

But knowing your vaccination status can be tricky, experts said.

“It’s complicated and often futile because it’s very difficult to resurrect those old records,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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Los Angeles County Department of Public Health experts, Muntu Davis, Health Officer, left, and Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders during a news conference in Los Angeles Friday, April 26, 2019. VOA

People vaccinated in the United States since 1989 would most likely have received two doses of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot under federal guidelines, and that is still considered the standard for protection.

Anyone vaccinated between 1963 and 1989 would likely have received only one dose, with many people immunized in the earlier years receiving an inactivated version of the virus. Americans born before 1957 are considered immune as they would have been exposed to the virus directly in an outbreak.

Merck & Co Inc is the sole U.S. provider of the MMR vaccine. The company said in a statement that it has “taken steps to increase U.S. supply” of the vaccine due to the current outbreak.

HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS

The measles virus is highly contagious and can cause blindness, deafness, brain damage or death. It is currently spreading in outbreaks in many parts of the world.

According to the World Health Organization, 95 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated to provide “herd immunity,” a form of indirect protection that prevents infection in people too young or sick to be vaccinated. U.S. public health officials have blamed the current outbreak in part on rising rates of vaccine skepticism that have reduced measles immunity in certain communities.

For travelers to outbreak areas abroad, the CDC recommends adults consider getting another dose of MMR unless they have proof of receiving two prior doses, take a blood test showing immunity, or were born before 1957.

In general, the CDC says two doses of the measles vaccine should provide 97 percent protection; one dose should offer 93 percent protection. However, immunity can wane over time.

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Rapid blood tests are available that can detect whether a person is immune based on the level of measles antibodies, but the tests are not 100 percent reliable. Pixabay

This has occurred even in adults with two documented doses of the vaccine, said Dr. Michael Phillips, chief epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, which serves parts of New York City, a hot spot in the U.S. outbreak.

He said in kids, “the vaccine is really effective,” but in some adults, memory T-cells, which recognize and attack germs, do not fight the virus as effectively as they once did.

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Rapid blood tests are available that can detect whether a person is immune based on the level of measles antibodies, but the tests are not 100 percent reliable.

Adults who have any doubt about their immunity should get another dose, Schaffner said: “It’s safe. There’s no downside risk. Just roll up your sleeve.” (VOA)

Next Story

Measles Outbreak: N.Y. Eliminates Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations

The move comes while the United States is experiencing its worst outbreak of measles in 25 years

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In this March 27, 2019 file photo, a woman receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., north of New York City. VOA

New York is the latest state where parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate children on religious grounds.

Both houses of the New York State Assembly passed the measure Thursday and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it immediately.

The move comes while the United States is experiencing its worst outbreak of measles in 25 years.

Parents in New York have up to 30 days to get their children immunized against contagious diseases such as measles, or they would be barred from school.

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New York is the latest state where parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate children on religious grounds. Pixabay

Some parents shouted curses and booed as state lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, calling it a violation of religious freedom.

“People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” a member of a Russian Orthodox Church said.

But the bill’s sponsor said he is not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran commanding that children not get vaccinated.

“If you choose not to vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children…then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school,” Bronx assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said.

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Most cases of measles in New York are in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Governor Cuomo said he “understands freedom of religion. I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”

Health officials in the United States and around the world are fighting widely spread disinformation that vaccines against measles and other diseases cause autism.

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Both houses of the New York State Assembly passed the measure Thursday. Pixabay

They call the global anti-vaccination campaign a major threat to public health.

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Some of the New York lawmakers say some parents who believe vaccines are harmful may be using freedom of religion as an excuse not to get shots for their children. (VOA)