New Jersey measles case prompts questions about MMR vaccine safety and effectiveness

Last week, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) reported a case of measles in a New Jersey resident who had recently traveled internationally. The NJDOH warned that people who were at the Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center Emergency Department on June 1 may have been exposed and encouraged all residents who will be traveling out of the country to get their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. In response to these warnings, some social media users questioned the safety and effectiveness of MMR vaccines.

Recommendation: The recent measles case in New Jersey may prompt questions from patients and parents of pediatric patients about measles and the MMR vaccine. Explaining that the MMR vaccine is our best tool for preventing the spread of measles and reducing the risk of severe illness and death is recommended. Additional messaging may emphasize that all vaccines are rigorously tested before becoming available to the public, and side effects from the MMR vaccine are extremely rare. Two doses of the MMR vaccine reduce the risk of contracting measles by 97 percent. The CDC recommends being fully vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before traveling internationally. Children under 12 months who will be traveling should get an early dose of the MMR vaccine at 6-11 months, a second dose at 12-15 months, and a final dose at 4-6 years. Children over 12 months as well as teens and adults with no evidence of immunity should get their first dose immediately and their second dose 28 days later.