An estimated 3 million Americans between 20 and 37 are at risk of catching measles, which is more dangerous to adults than to children, because they never got a second dose of vaccine, federal health officials said Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging every student returning to college this fall to get that missed immunization, hoping to catch at-risk young adults before they start measles outbreaks on packed college campuses.
“Every college student should be immunized with a second dose … and every state should have laws requiring two doses for college entry,” said Dr. Stephen Redd, CDC’s measles chief.
For years, children were given only one dose of the measles-mumpsrubella vaccine, a combination shot that dramatically reduced these childhood diseases. Because the shot is required for school entry, 98 percent of children get it by age 5.
Then doctors discovered the measles protection doesn’t take hold in about 5 percent of vaccinated children. So in 1989, the government recommended that children get a second dose sometime between ages 4 and 12. Forty states immediately mandated that recommendation.
But the decision left a loophole for anyone older than 12 in 1989 - and for the 10 states that never enforced the second dose for younger children.
Measles can cause dangerous complications, including pneumonia, in teenagers and adults more often than in young children. Particularly vulnerable are colleges where concentrated populations facilitate measles’ rapid spread.
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