Before You Board That Plane – Have You Had Your Measles Vaccination?

The  Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shot is one of the many immunizations recommended by the CDC for healthcare workers and it is on the immunization schedule for children as early as 12 months. However, small outbreaks of Measles continue to occur in the US, with the vast majority of these infections coming from travelers returning from overseas trips.

A highly contagious virus, Measles symptoms include high fever, cough and runny nose, followed by a red rash. In about 30% of cases there are serious complications, such as brain inflammation, blindness and pneumonia. Before immunization became common in the United States there were 3-4 million cases of measles each year, but as of 2016, the WHO declared that Measles was no longer endemic in the Americas.

A new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine takes a closer look at pre-travel health consultations and the missed opportunities to establish measles immunity in adults travelling overseas. In association with the CDC’s Global TravEpiNet, researchers utilized data from 24 sites where adults born after 1957 filled out a survey regarding their pre-travel medical consultations. From an initial pool of 40,810 travelers, 6,612 travelers were deemed eligible to receive the MMR vaccination at the time of the consultation, meaning that they were in good health and did not report already having the MMR vaccination.


Despite their eligibility, over 53% of patients did not go ahead and have the vaccination performed at the time of consultation. About half the time, the vaccines weren’t given because the provider opted not to administer, for example if the patient was pregnant. But 1,689 patients, 48% of those eligible, opted not to have the vaccination despite their doctors’ recommendations at the time of consultation. The most common reason patients gave for not taking the vaccination was “I am not concerned about illness.” The authors also noted a geographical distinction, with patients in the Southern United States being more likely to refuse vaccination.

Quoted in the New York Times, lead author Dr. Emily P. Hyle warned that patients should confirm their immunity “regardless of where people travel. Right now there are outbreaks in Germany, Italy and Romania.”

Photo by NIAID /CC by 2.0

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Laurie Breen

Laurie Breen is a freelance writer well-versed in research communications and grant writing. She received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Smith College and has worked previously at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia. Her favorite conversational topic is "antibiotic-resistant bacteria," making her a big hit at parties.