- Vaccine Basics
- What is Measles?
- Who gets Measles?
- Ready to get vaccinated?
Measles is the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses. The disease spreads very easily, so it is important to protect against infection. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles.
For Infants and Children
Measles vaccine is usually administered as MMR, a combination vaccine that provides protection against three viral diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective. In the United States, two doses are recommended for children:
The first dose at 12–15 months of age
The second dose before entering school, at 4–6 years of age
Your child’s health care provider may also offer the MMRV vaccine, a combination vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months to 12 years of age and may be used in place of MMR vaccine if varicella vaccination is needed in addition to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination. Your child’s health care provider can help you decide which vaccine to use.
Anyone born during or after 1957 who has not had measles or been vaccinated is at risk and should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Two doses are recommended for adults who are at higher risk, such as:
College students, trade school students, or other students beyond high school
Those who work in a hospital or other medical facility
International travelers or those who are passengers on a cruise ship
Women of childbearing age
However, pregnant women should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not become pregnant for 28 days following the receipt of the MMR vaccine or any of its components. (The combination MMRV vaccine is not licensed for those over 12 years old.)
Anyone who does not have evidence of measles immunity is at risk for measles during international travel. Check with your health care provider to see if you or your child (including children less than 12 months of age) should be vaccinated before traveling.
What is Measles?
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. The disease of measles and the virus that causes it share the same name. The disease is also called rubeola.
Measles virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The droplets can get into other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface. The virus can live on infected surfaces for up to two hours.
Measles causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. About one out of ten children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. About one out of 1,000 gets encephalitis, and one or two out of 1,000 die. Measles can also make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
Other rash-causing diseases often confused with measles include roseola and rubella (German measles).
Measles remains a common disease in many countries throughout the world, including some developed countries in Europe and Asia. While the disease is almost gone from the United States, measles still kills nearly 200,000 people each year globally.
Who gets Measles?
Anyone can get measles. It is so contagious that anyone who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease.
Complications from measles are still dangerous and occur more commonly in children younger than five years of age and adults 20 years of age or older.
Anyone who does not have evidence of measles immunity is at risk for measles during international travel. Check with your doctor to check if you or your child (including children less than 12 months of age) should be vaccinated, especially before traveling.
Ready to get vaccinated?
Read more about measles vaccines:
Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for the MMR vaccine or the MMRV vaccine describe the benefits and risks of each vaccine. These sheets are required to be given each time you receive a vaccine dose.
FDA vaccine-specific approved prescribing information.
More information about measles and the vaccine on the CDC’s Measles page.
Prepare for your vaccination visit by reading about what to expect.
Going to get vaccinated:
Find places to get vaccinated in your area.
Explore resources to help pay for vaccines.
Many states require measles vaccination for school and child care entry. Find out about your state requirements.
Measles is more common in some countries than it is in the United States. Find out if you should be vaccinated before you travel abroad on the CDC’s Measles Page for Travelers.