Boomers and Gen X: Are you immune to measles?

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measles image 300CDC publishes a schedule of all vaccines recommended for adults, which includes the MMR. To see where you can get the MMR vaccine in your community, visit of measles have been confirmed in 24 states, including neighboring Tennessee and Georgia, so health officials are preparing for when — not if — an outbreak occurs in Alabama. UAB infectious disease and primary care experts urge everyone to know their vaccination status and educate themselves on the dangers of the measles.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious, viral respiratory illness that lives in the nose and throat of infected people. It is spread through coughing and sneezing, and the virus has the ability to live in the air for nearly two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes. There is no antiviral drug to treat the measles, but there is a vaccine to prevent it. The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases — measles, mumps and rubella — and two doses now are recommended.

The measles vaccination program begun in 1963 was considered to have eradicated measles in the United States by 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But as the anti-vaccine information has spread, so has the risk of being exposed to and contracting measles.

Boomers and Gen X be aware

“If you were born between 1960 and 1989 and you got your normal childhood vaccines, you probably only had one dose of MMR.”

This is especially true for adults born between 1958 and 1988, says UAB epidemiologist Rachael Lee, M.D. Children born in 1989 or later who participated in a standard vaccination regimen likely received two doses and are 97% immune, she said. Adults born in 1957 or earlier likely were exposed to the disease and have had the measles.

But those in between probably received one dose and may have no or limited immunity. “If you were born between 1960 and 1989 and you got your normal childhood vaccines, you probably only had one dose of MMR,” Lee said.

Here you have two good choices:

  • Check your titer. A blood test at your doctor’s office can determine whether or not you have antibodies to the measles virus and are immune, based on vaccination or exposure. Results can take a few days, but you’ll know your status.
  • Get another MMR. Chances are you could have had a booster after the initial dose. Some colleges, for example, require proof of two doses before students can enroll. Some occupations require the same. But if you have no record of a second dose, “you can ask your provider to give you a second dose,” Lee said.

UAB health plans cover the cost

  • UAB’s Viva Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans follow guidelines established by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Filed correctly, these services performed in a doctor’s office should incur no office visit or other copay, says Mike Boyd, executive director for UAB Benefits and Wellness.
  • In Viva Health and BCBS plans, all preventive vaccines are covered at 100% for adults and children.
    The antibody check is a lab. There is no lab-sharing cost for Viva Access, Viva UAB or BCBS if the test is filed as preventive; for Viva Choice, there could be a cost unless it is billed as part of a wellness exam. Discuss this with your provider.

UAB epidemiologist Rachael Lee, M.D., answers questions about measles.