Measles Vaccination Cheat Sheet

What to do if you're not sure you're protected from the measles.

Measles Vaccination Cheat Sheet

The recent measles outbreak has focused mainly on infants and children—and rightly so, since they’re the most vulnerable to the infection. But many adults will be surprised to learn that they may not be fully protected, increasing their risk of getting the measles and infecting others.

Here’s your measles vaccination cheat sheet—pass it on!

Quick history of the vaccine
1963: The measles vaccine is introduced. Pharmaceutical companies produced both a live, attenuated (weakened) version of the virus along with a dead one.

1967: The dead version is found to be ineffective, so it was pulled from the market.

1968: A newly improved live, attenuated vaccine was released (the same form we use today). It was given in a single dose.

1989: The vaccine was found to be most effective if people received two doses; doctors started giving two doses to all infants and children. They also gave a booster to kids who were 11-12 years old at the time. That means that anyone born after 1989 has likely received two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Here's the low-down on how all of this applies to you.

Age-by-Age Vaccination Guide

  • If you were born before 1957, you were likely exposed to measles as a child and are therefore immune.
  • If you were born after 1957 and received your vaccine before 1968 there’s a chance that you received the ineffective form. What to do? Instead of hunting around for your vaccination records, the easiest thing would be to have your blood drawn to check for antibodies; your doctor can tell you if you need a booster. To make things even easier, go ahead and get a booster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with unknown immunization status “should be revaccinated with at least one dose of the live attenuated measles vaccine.”
  • If you received your vaccine between 1968 and 1978: You likely received one dose of the effective form. Unless you work in healthcare or are around vulnerable groups (think: babies, small children or people with compromised immune systems), the CDC says you are 95 percent protected and don’t need a second booster.
  • If you were born after 1977-78: You likely received both doses of the current shot and are immune.

Still in doubt? You can either get blood drawn to check for antibodies or just go ahead and get a booster shot—it won’t do any harm if you were already vaccinated. 

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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