By now, I am sure you’re aware that we are suffering through a nationwide measles epidemic with Washington state being hit particularly hard. On Monday, the first confirmed case was identified in Orange County with three cases in Los Angeles County announced just prior to this. In the US, before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, there were 4 million measles cases a year with 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths every year. Once the vaccines were available, those numbers dropped dramatically. In fact, in 2000, the CDC announced the measles was eradicated.
For the vaccine to work, it requires what is known as “herd” immunity. This means a certain percentage of people needs to be immunized to keep it from spreading through the population. Because measles spreads so easily , the percentage needed for herd immunity is really high at over 95%. When states began relaxing the laws regarding mandatory vaccinations, the percentage fell below 95%. This made the current outbreak inevitable and predictable.
In short, everybody in the community who can get the vaccine should to stop the virus respect spreading.
Prior to 1957, they were two nationwide epidemics that infected nearly 99% of the population. Therefore, for patients born before 1957, it is generally assumed you are immune. This would be a lifetime immunity and no shots or boosters are needed.
For patients that had the vaccine between 1963 -1967, it is felt that those vaccinations no longer give immunity. In simple language, those shots “didn’t count“.
All children and adults over the age of 12 months should have two measles vaccines. For most Americans, this would mean receiving a second shot in adulthood. If your first shot was between 1963 and 1967, you would need two more shots on top of that one.
As Chief Medical Officer of Caduceus, I call for all of our patients to come in to receive their update on the measles vaccination. We will be happy to work with you to catch you up so that you will not become infected or spread the infection.
If there is any doubt, it is safer to take the vaccine than guess, even if you do not actually need it. Additionally, we can check your blood to see if you are immune.
Although all health plans cover childhood vaccines, many do not cover adult vaccines. In the event your vaccine is not covered, our cash price is $120.
Please feel free to share this information with friends and family. It is essential to stop the infection now so there are no measles associated deaths in Orange County this year.
Gregg Denicola MD Chief Medical Officer