Prevention of Measles
The best prevention of measles is the measles vaccine. A second dose of the vaccine is recommended to protect the 5 percent of people who did not develop immunity with the first dose, and to give a "booster" effect to those who did develop an immune response. Widespread use of the measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99 percent reduction in measles cases in the United States.
Prior to 1963, almost everyone got measles; it was an expected life event. Each year in the United States, there were approximately 3 to 4 million cases, and an average of 450 deaths. Epidemic cycles occurred every 2 to 3 years. More than half the population had measles by the time they were 6 years old, and 90 percent had the disease by the time they were 15 years old.
However, after the measles vaccine became available, the number of measles cases dropped by 99 percent, and the epidemic cycles diminished drastically. Therefore, the best prevention of measles is the measles vaccine.
Prevention of measles begins with the measles vaccine (contained in MMR, MR, and measles vaccines).
The MMR vaccine is a live, attenuated (weakened), combination vaccine that protects against the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. It was first licensed in the combined form in 1971, and contains the safest and most effective forms of each vaccine.
It is made by taking the measles virus from the throat of an infected person, and adapting it to grow in chick embryo cells, in a laboratory. As the measles virus becomes better able to grow in the chick embryo cells, it becomes less able to grow in a child's skin or lungs. When this vaccine virus is given to a child, it replicates only a little before it is eliminated from the body. This replication causes the body to develop an immunity that, in 95 percent of children, lasts for a lifetime.
A second dose of the vaccine is recommended to protect the 5 percent who did not develop immunity in the first dose, and to give "booster" effect to those who did develop an immune response.