- For babies younger than 6 months of age: If a baby’s mother has had her MMR shots and/or had measles infection in her life, she passed antibodies to her baby during fetal development while in-utero and continues to pass them passively while breast-feeding. Those antibodies provide protection for young infants and typically are thought to protect infants for up to 6 months or more. However, exactly how long for each baby is not ever known. Immunity wanes for these babies as they age and the mom’s antibodies fail to persist. The reason babies don’t get the MMR shot sooner than a year of age is because of the persistence of these maternal antibodies — if you put a vaccine in while maternal antibodies are still around the vaccine won’t stimulate the baby’s own immune system to respond, it will just get soaked up by the maternal antibodies doing their job.
- Okay to go to the grocery store or have a play date with your infant? Yes! With a few caveats, of course. If you’re in a county where multiple cases of active measles have been recently reported, you may take more caution, by disallowing strangers to hold your baby and/or steering clear of anyone with a cough. Measles is infectious on surfaces and in the air for two hours after an infected individual has been in the space, so it’s tricky to provide solid guidelines of how to avoid it if it’s around. If there is ever any concern for exposure, call your pediatrician to discuss a visit. Like everything in life we balance risk with benefit and being out and about in the world. If you are planning on visiting families with children, ask the parents involved, “Is everyone here immunized against measles that can be?"
- Is my child’s school protected against a measles outbreak? In many states, you can track vaccination status for your child’s school because exemptions (those opting out of immunizations for medical or philosophical reasons) are tracked. To find your data, start at School Digger or try a search on the state’s Department of Health website. If you can’t find the information, it’s your right to request the numbers from school administration or the school nurse. Outbreaks like this are one of the reasons California discontinued allowing children to attend school without up-to-date immunizations. Their non-protection puts other children at risk.
- As a parent, do I need another MMR shot? What If I’m pregnant? It’s unlikely you need more MMR shots if you were born after 1957, when vaccination was universal. In 1989 we also started to do a second dose of MMR to get more people protected (closer to 100 percent of the population). Only adults working with vulnerable populations and in health care need to get a second dose now. If you have zero written documentation anywhere that you’ve had an MMR shot, talk with your doctor. In addition, if you’re pregnant now, do not get an MMR shot until after the baby’s born. You can get an MMR shot safely while breast-feeding.
- Traveling internationally with infants: If you’re planning to travel abroad with your infant and they are between 6 and 12 months of age, it’s recommended they get an MMR shot before travel to protect against measles. They’ll need to repeat that MMR dose at 1 year of age, and the last shot at age 4, but they will be better protected during travel to higher-risk areas while they are still an infant.
February 5, 2019 at 6:00 AM EST