According to CDC recommendations, all children should get two doses of the vaccine, following this schedule:
- Dose 1: At age 12 to 15 months
- Dose 2: At age 4 to 6 years (or earlier, but at least 28 days after the first dose)
Reluctance and refusal to use vaccines are fueling a measles resurgence worldwide, including in the U.S. So far this year, more than 1,240 people in America have contracted measles – the highest number since 1992. Measles outbreaks have occurred across the country, with the largest and most persistent beginning in New York last September.
Officials in New York report the outbreaks there have been contained. But if more measles cases linked to those outbreaks are reported this month, the WHO could take away the U.S.' measles elimination status. That's because the status is removed if measles continues to spread in a location for more than a year.
Losing the status would be a blow to U.S. efforts to eradicate measles, as well as its standing in the world, experts say. The U.S. received measles elimination status in 2000.
Several countries have already lost their measles-free status, including the United Kingdom, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Albania.
Misinformation about vaccines is a big part of the problem, experts say. Conspiracy theories spread via social media have convinced some parents that vaccines cause autism (that theory has long been debunked), so they are afraid to have their children immunized.
Other parents are simply hesitant to have very young children vaccinated, or worry that receiving multiple vaccines at once might harm their child even though there is no evidence of this. In fact, getting a vaccine-preventable disease such as measles is far more dangerous to your child than an immunization shot.
Not having children vaccinated on schedule is contributing to the measles epidemic, Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist, writes in The New York Times. That's because kids who are old enough to be immunized against measles aren't protected as soon as soon as they could be, leaving a greater number of children at risk.
The WHO has classified "vaccine hesitancy" – either refusal to use or delay in getting vaccines – as a top 10 global health threat.
Here's the good news: Measles is entirely preventable. The MMR vaccine is 95 percent effective at protecting a child against measles.
Read on for more information about immunizations for children and what you need to know.
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