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Should Adults Get the Measles Vaccine?

If you don't know if you are up-to-date, get the booster shot, Northwestern Medicine expert says

CHICAGO --- Adults who haven't had two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, or don't know if they have, should contact their doctor and ask about getting vaccinated soon, said Dr. Tina Tan of Northwestern Medicine®.

The current outbreak of measles is hitting adults hard. The CDC reports that 60 percent of those affected are over the age of 20. Infants, pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of severe complications from the disease. Now is a good time for adults to check their vaccine history and see if they are up-to-date.

Tan said there is no harm in getting a MMR booster if you are unsure of your vaccine history. Your doctor or a pharmacist should be able give you the shot, she added.

"Adults serve as the transmitters for many infectious diseases, such as the measles," Tan said. "This is a public health concern."

Tan, a professor in pediatrics-infectious diseases, studies adult vaccine use at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and is an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

"One of the reasons for adults to get vaccinated is to prevent them from getting the disease and also to protect young infants who they may be around who are too young to be vaccinated," Tan said. "As these vaccine preventable diseases begin to reappear, it is imperative that adults stay up-to-date on their vaccines and receive the vaccines they need."

Tan has published studies that examine the awareness, acceptance, barriers and utilization of recommended preventative vaccines among adults and primary healthcare physicians.

Adult preventative vaccine rates are low or stagnant, Tan said. Her research has found that many adult health care providers are not comfortable giving vaccines or don't stock vaccines for cost issues.

Tan is currently studying the use of whooping cough vaccine (acellular pertussis vaccine) in pregnant women and postpartum women at Prentice Women’s Hospital. She said almost all recent cases of young infants with whooping cough have been traced back to adults who were not vaccinated and transmitted the disease.

Another study she is leading examines the role of pharmacists as vaccinators to increase vaccine rates in adults.

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