Gen. X And Millennial Travelers May Need Another Measles Shot

If you're headed to a country with a recent outbreak and you were born before 1989, you may need a second dose of the vaccine

Measles vaccination
Do you need a measles booster shot? (Flickr.)(Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 3, 2019 12:33 pm

There have been more measles cases worldwide in the first half of 2019 than in any year since 2006, and as NPR reports, Gen. X and millennial travelers planning on visiting a country with a recent outbreak may need a second dose of the vaccine to adequately protect themselves.

When the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine first was introduced in 1971, it was standard for one dose to be administered, but after public health officials noticed vaccinated children still catching the measles virus over the years, they changed the guidelines to two doses in 1989. NPR recommends that those who were vaccinated prior to 1989 check their medical records to make sure they received the second dose.

If you don’t have access to your medical records, there’s a blood test available to check your immunity by looking for antibodies to measles, but Dr. Art Reingold, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that the test may produce false negatives for some people.

“The blood test is imperfect,” he told NPR. “If you have antibodies, then we’re pretty certain you’re immune. But if you don’t have antibodies you may still be immune, but your antibodies are not detectable by the test.”

That said, there’s no harm in being extra cautious. If you’re unsure of your vaccination status, a second dose won’t hurt. But if you know you’ve already had two, rest easy; doctors say there’s no benefit to getting a third.

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