16th of March is observed as Measles Immunization Day every year in order to raise awareness about this deadly disease and the role of measles vaccine to fight the disease.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease caused by the measles virus. The global estimates for the year 2013 suggest that close to 0.14 million deaths were attributed to measles, accounting for nearly 16 deaths each hour. In India, more than 2.5 million children acquire measles infection, while close to 49,000 infected children die each year. This in itself accounts for 37% of the disease-specific deaths worldwide, making it one of the leading causes of child deaths in India. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Before shedding light on the measles vaccine, here’s what you need to know about the condition.
Measles: What You Need To Know?
Measles, a viral infection, is one of the most contagious diseases in humans. The virus is known to spread via respiratory droplets or direct contact with a person suffering from the condition as it infects the nasopharyngeal epithelium, cells in the nasal and throat region. The symptoms usually appear after 10 – 12 days post infection. The initial symptoms include high fever, runny nose, tiny spots in the mouth and red eyes. It also causes skin rash which develops around 14 days after exposure with the virus and spreads from the face and neck to the trunk and limbs.
Patients are contagious from four days before the onset of rash till 4 days after the onset of the rash. Around 5 to 7 days post exposure, the infection spreads through the bloodstream to the skin, conjunctivae and respiratory tract. The symptoms tend to improve by the third day of rash and patients start to recover fully around 7–10 days from the onset of the disease.
The health complications caused due to measles include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, and related dehydration, and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. It may even lead to death in kids who belong to a high-risk group such as children who are poorly nourished, lack sufficient amounts of Vitamin A and have low immunity. The treatment is aimed at managing symptoms such as fever, cough, and respiratory problems. The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination.
Measles Vaccine: FAQs answered!
When it comes to vaccination for measles, there are numerous questions that every parent has right from the correct age to get vaccinated to who should not get vaccinated. Here are some of the FAQs on the measles vaccine answered.
What is the right age to get a measles vaccine?
As per the revised routine immunization schedule by the World Health Organization, every child should get two doses of measles vaccine. The 1st dose at the age of 9-12 months and the 2nd dose at the age of 16-24 months.
What if a child misses either of the doses?
If a child has missed the 1st or the 2nd dose, then both doses can be given up to 5 years of age. However, it is important to maintain a gap of at least four weeks between both the doses as it helps to improve the outcome.
What will happen if the vaccine is given within 9 months of childbirth?
The efficacy of the vaccine is 87%, 95%, and 98% when given at 9 months, 12 months, and 15 months respectively. This is the reason why in India, children are given measles vaccine (MV) soon after completing 9 months of age. Moreover, the body’s ability to produce antibodies for measles is slightly lower in children who receive the first dose before or at 12 months of age because of persisting maternal antibodies.
If a child has received the measles-rubella (MR) vaccine before 9 months of age, is it necessary to repeat the vaccine later?
Yes. According to the National Immunization Schedule, the MR vaccine needs to be administered after the completion of 9 months until 12 months of age as the first dose and at 16–24 months as the second dose in routine immunization.
Where can I get vaccinated for measles?
You can consult your pediatrician or a family doctor to get vaccinated for measles. The World Health Organization recommends immunization for all susceptible children and adults for whom measles vaccination is not contraindicated. The measles vaccine can be given alone or in a combination as measles-rubella (MR), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV).
Does measles vaccine give lifelong protection against the disease?
Yes, the vaccine can provide lifelong protection and is 87% effective in preventing the disease when given at 9 months and 95% effective when given at 12 months.
Can adults also get vaccinated for measles?
If an adult didn’t get the measles vaccine as a child, then he/she may need to get it as an adult. As a rule, everyone above the age of 18 years and those born after 1956 who has not had measles, needs to get at least 1 dose of the measles vaccine to prevent the disease. Talk with your doctor to know more about the vaccination for adults.
Why is the MR vaccine given in the right arm?
MR vaccine is given always on the right upper arm as a standard and uniform practice across the nation.
If a child has received the routine MCV recently, does she/he need to get the MR vaccination in the campaign?
Campaign vaccination will be an additional vaccine dose provided to each and every target eligible child (from 9 months to <15 years), irrespective of the previous vaccination status. Hence, it is important to get vaccination done during a campaign.
Who should not get the vaccine for measles?
It is not advised to get a measles vaccine if you are pregnant or had a severe allergic reaction to any of its components or the vaccine. If your child is sick or is taking medications and are in doubt whether to give vaccination or not, then talk to your pediatrician.
What are the side-effects of the measles vaccine?
Just like any other vaccine, even measles vaccines cause side-effects such as fever, mild rash, and swelling in the cheeks and neck. However, these symptoms usually go away in a few days. In rare cases, it can lead to pain and stiffness in the joints, seizures, and short-term low platelet count.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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