Even Vaccinated People Can Get the Measles
Here they come; the Measles are back…again. Measles are a serious infectious disease that can cause serious complications, such as ear infections, inflammation of the throat and lungs, pneumonia, swelling of the brain known as encephalitis, and pregnancy problems. Once very common, measles are now rare thanks to vaccinations, but oddly enough people who have the measles vaccine can still get the measles.
The measles vaccine became widely available in 1963. In the decade prior to the vaccine, measles infected 3 to 4 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the cases reported, 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis from measles each year.
Widespread immunization drastically reduced measles rates right away, but the rate of measles began to creep up again in fully vaccinated communities. In 1989, health officials recommended receiving two doses, with the first at 12 to 15 months old and the second at 4 to 6 years old. One dose of the measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles, while two doses are about 97 percent effective. The immunity provided by the measles vaccination is long-term and probably lifelong.
The aggressive two-dose measles vaccination campaign eliminated measles from the U.S. in 2000. Now a measles outbreak is sweeping the nation and 2019 is shaping up to be one of the worst years for measles since its elimination nearly 20 years ago. This trend is worrisome for the very young, the very ill and other people who cannot receive a vaccination, as it puts them at risk of contracting measles. The increase of measles also increases the risk of infection among people who have received a measles vaccination but are still at risk of getting sick from the measles. Doctors refer to this group of people as “vaccine non-responders.”
Measles Vaccines and Vaccine Non-responders
Immunization with the measles vaccine, known as the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine, reduces the risk of infection with measles when exposed to the virus that causes the disease. Immunization with the MMR vaccine can also reduce the severity of symptoms if vaccinated individuals do get the measles.
Vaccinations work by “teaching” the immune system how to recognize and attach the measles virus. Vaccinations involve the introduction of live, attenuated measles virus. That means the vaccine contains a harmless version of the measles virus. The body responds to the presence of the vaccine by creating antibodies that will fight any measles virus they encounter in the future.
Some people have a strong response to immunizations with the measles vaccine, and develop a robust army of measles antibodies. These high-responders have a very low risk of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. Low-responders, whose bodies may have developed only a few antibodies to the measles virus, may contract measles but experience only mild to moderate symptoms.
Certain factors can influence a vaccine’s effectiveness. The viruses inside vaccines can die during the attenuation process to alter its effectiveness, for example. Administering vaccinations at the wrong time or incorrectly can also lower the effectiveness of the vaccine. Host-related factors, such as a person’s genetics, immune status, age, health, and even nutritional status can also affect how well a vaccine works.
While vaccinations may not provide 100 percent protection against the measles, it is still important that everyone who can receive vaccinations have the MMR. Widespread vaccination provides “herd immunity” that prevents serious viruses like measles from spread to those who either cannot receive the vaccine or who are low- or non-responders.
Frank Magliochetti owes his professional success to his expertise in two areas: medicine and finance. After obtaining a BS in pharmacy from Northeastern University, he stayed on to enroll in the Masters of Toxicology program. He later specialized in corporate finance, receiving an MBA from The Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University. His educational background includes completion of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and the General Management Program at Stanford Business School. Frank Magliochetti has held senior positions at Baxter International, Kontron Instruments, Haemonetics Corporation, and Sandoz. Since 2000, he has been a managing partner at Parcae Capital, where he focuses on financial restructuring and interim management services for companies in the healthcare, media, and alternative energy industries. Earlier this year, he was appointed chairman of the board at Grace Health Technology, a company providing an enterprise solution for the laboratory environment.