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What You Need to Know: FAQ’s on the Measles

We want to tackle some frequently asked questions about measles.

The elimination of measles in the United States in 2000 is one of public health’s most celebrated success stories. But as recent outbreaks have revealed, there is still reason to be concerned about measles. Last year we saw 644 measles cases in the United States—more cases than we had seen in 20 years. In 2015, there are already more than 100 cases; most are related to a large, ongoing outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

We want to tackle some frequently asked questions about measles. Take a look below:

Does the federal government require everyone to get the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine?

CDC makes recommendations for the immunization of the U.S. population. It’s up to states and localities to determine vaccine requirements and exemption policies, primarily for school entry.  All states require measles-containing vaccination for kindergarten, allowing medical exemptions and most requiring two doses. CDC recommends routine childhood immunization for MMR vaccine starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age or at least 28 days following the first dose. 

Should adults get a booster shot?

Most adults are protected against measles.

  • Based on what we currently know about the measles cases, most adults do not need to get a measles vaccination or a measles vaccine booster shot/dose. If you were born before 1957, we do not believe a measles vaccination is needed since you were likely exposed to measles as a child. The vast majority of other adults are likely vaccinated or have had measles.
  • That said, if you have never had measles, and you have never received a measles vaccination, you should get vaccinated. This is especially true if you will be traveling to an area - either in the U.S. or outside the U.S. - where measles cases are happening.
  • If you are an adult falling into a high-risk category for measles exposure and/or transmission -- like a healthcare worker, college student or international traveler -- you should receive two doses of measles vaccine unless you have other evidence of immunity. Click here for more information.

Why is the vaccine given only to kids 12 months of age and older?

  • Infants under 12 months of age may have maternally acquired antibodies that will interfere with the immune response to vaccination.  CDC does not routinely recommend children younger than 12 months of age get vaccinated because of these maternal antibodies. 
  • Vaccine is recommended for infants traveling internationally are at higher risk of exposure. It’s important for parents to know that children vaccinated at 6 through 11 months will still need to get two doses of MMR vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart, after the first birthday, since the dose given before 12 months will not provide longer lasting protection.

If there is an outbreak in my community, can I vaccinate my child if he/she is less than 12 months old?

  • CDC is not currently recommending that U.S. infants 6-11 months of age get vaccinated.  Even though there are outbreaks currently reported in the U.S., there is not ongoing risk for exposure in the general community for infants in this age group.  This decision is usually made at the local level.
  • If your infant has been exposed to measles and is not vaccinated, CDC recommends that they can either be vaccinated if within 3 days or receive Immunoglobulin within 6 days of exposure.  This may prevent them from getting ill with measles.
  • Any baby vaccinated between 6 and 11 months still needs to receive two doses begun at 12 months or later.

Do we know the cause of the measles outbreak?


  • The source of the Disneyland outbreak has not been identified. Because measles is currently extremely uncommon in the region of the Americas it is most likely that a Disneyland visitor had been infected in another part of the world where measles is more common or outbreaks are occurring.
  • Measles remains a common disease in many other parts of the world, including areas in Europe such as Germany and France, as well as Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. The majority of importations of measles into the U.S. come from U.S. residents traveling internationally. When we can identify vaccine status, almost all are unvaccinated.
  • Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected when they travel internationally.

If you’re a parent or childcare provider, there are more resources available to answers questions you may have as well as important information you should be aware of to protect your health. Click here for more information.

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