There are two vaccines available in BC that provide protection against measles:
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine
The efficacy of a single dose of measles vaccine given at 12 to 15 months of age is estimated to be between 85% to 95%. With a second dose, efficacy is almost 100%. Immunized individuals are far less likely to get measles, and even if they develop measles infection, are less likely to experience complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
Children as part of the routine immunization schedule: Children are routinely provided with 2 doses of a measles-containing vaccine with the 1st dose (MMR) given at 12 months of age and the 2nd dose (MMRV) given at 4 to 6 years of age.
Unimmunized children and adolescents: Two doses of a measles-containing vaccine are needed. Depending on the need for varicella protection, MMRV vaccine can be used for healthy children 4 to 12 years of age; otherwise MMR is the appropriate vaccine.
Susceptible adults born on or after January 1, 1970 (who are not health care workers): Two doses of a measles-containing vaccine (given as MMR) are needed. This is especially important for travelers.
Adults born before January 1, 1970 (who are not health care workers): These people are generally assumed to have acquired immunity to measles from natural infection. However, there may be a small number of susceptible individuals born before 1970 who do not have a history of measles disease. Those who self-identify without a history of measles disease or vaccine may be considered susceptible and should be offered 1 dose of the MMR vaccine.
Health care workers: Health care workers born in 1957 or later, who do not have evidence of immunity to measles, need 2 doses of a measles-containing vaccine. Those born before 1957 are considered immune to measles.
For more information regarding eligibility, guidelines for use and contraindications please refer to the BC Immunization Manual, Part 4 - Biological Products, MMR and MMRV Vaccines.
In the event of a measles outbreak, the local Medical Health Officer for that geographic region may make additional vaccine recommendations such as a dose of MMR vaccine for adults in the outbreak-affected age group.
Immunity to measles is determined by either disease or vaccination history. Serological testing to establish immunity to measles is not routinely recommended before or after vaccination.
Adults born before January 1, 1970 (January 1, 1957 for health care workers) are likely to have acquired immunity to measles from natural infection and therefore do not require the MMR vaccine. However, there may be a very small number of susceptible individuals born before 1970. These individuals are eligible for 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
Individuals born on or after January 1, 1970 (January 1, 1957 for health care workers) need laboratory evidence of measles immunity OR documentation of 2 doses of a measles-containing vaccine.
For more information about the vaccine, who should get it, the benefits and typical side effects, read our HealthLinkBC files: