Prior to the measles vaccine, more than 500,000 cases of the measles were reported and 500 people died. Since then, and after widespread immunization, measles cases in the U.S. plummeted. In 2004, for example, only 37 people contracted the disease. But the anti-vaccination movement has caused the number of measles cases to rise, and now there are at least 107 confirmed cases across 21 states. Knowing the facts about the measles vaccine is vital, not only so you can vaccinate your child according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, but so you can debunk any of those prevailing myths regarding vaccines that have allowed diseases like the measles to make a comeback.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles is one of the leading causes of death in children; one that is entirely preventable since there are safe and cost-effective vaccines available. Between 2000-2016, the vaccine prevented an estimated 20.4 million deaths, according to the WHO. In other words, the vaccine works. You just, you know, have to actually take advantage of it.
Sadly, a completely unfounded and consistently debunked myth about the safety of vaccines has encouraged parents to forego immunizations altogether. According to The Washington Post, failing to vaccinate our children is the driving force behind the recent measles outbreak in the United States. Which is, again, why it's important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the measles vaccine. So with that in mind, here's what you should know about this life-saving immunization:
According to the CDC, the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) is extremely effective in not only protecting people from the measles, but preventing any potential complications caused by the disease. If a child receives two doses of the vaccine, they're protected for life.
In 1998, an incorrect study published in The Lancet correlated the measles vaccination with autism. That study has since been retracted, because there's been no concrete, scientifically-backed proof of a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. In fact, the evidence used to argue such a connection has since been disproven.
It has been proven that getting the vaccine does prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease, though.
It Doesn't Contain Mercury
The MMR vaccine does not, and never has, contained thimerosal: a mercury-based preservative that contains ethylmercury. But even if it did, there is no evidence that thimerosal in vaccines causes any harm, according to the CDC. Thimerosal prevents the growth of bacteria in vaccines, is easily eliminated by the human body, and scientific evidence has shown there's no connection between thimerosal and autism.
Side Effects Are Rare
According to the CDC, most people don't experience any side effects after they've had the MMR vaccine. Some side effects include a fever, mild rash, pain, stiffness of the joints, low platelet count, seizure, and a severe allergic reaction. But, again, these are extremely rare and the safety of the vaccine is always being monitored.
Your Child Should Get Two Doses
Your child will receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. One is administered when your child is between 12 and 15 months old, and the second will occur anytime between 4 and 6, according to the CDC. Again, these two shots should protect them from the measles for the rest of their lives.
Adults Can Get The Vaccine
Per the CDC, adults who haven't been vaccinated as children can also receive the MMR vaccine. And, in some rare cases, a third dose of the MMR is recommended if the individual in question has been exposed to an outbreak.
You Can Obtain A Vaccination After You've Been Exposed
According to the Mayo Clinic, even if you've never been vaccinated and have been exposed to the virus, you have a 72-hour window to hurry into a clinic and get the vaccination. If you do contract the disease, the vaccination will help lessen the severity of your symptoms.
It Doesn't Cure The Measles
There's no cure for measles, and, according to the CDC, there is no specific antiviral therapy for the measles, either. At best, a medical professional can relieve the symptoms of the measles and try to treat any potential complications of the disease.
But the measles can be prevented by the vaccine.