When to get the measles vaccine

By Andy Stergachis, PhD, BPharm Apr 13, 2023 • 4 min

What is the measles vaccine?

The measles vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against measles and mumps, and rubella. For this reason, the measles vaccines is also called the MMR vaccine. It is also available in combination with chickenpox (varicella) vaccine in the MMRV vaccine.

At what age do you get the measles vaccine?

Children should get two doses of the measles vaccine. The first dose of the measles vaccine should be given to children between the ages of 12 to 15 months. The second dose of the measles vaccine should be given between 4 and 6 years of age.

How long does the measles vaccine last?

The measles vaccine is very effective. People who received two doses of the measles vaccine as children are usually considered protected for life. Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles. Before widespread use of the vaccine, there were an estimated 3–4 million cases and 400–500 deaths from measles annually in the U.S.

Can you get measles if you’ve been vaccinated?

According to the CDC, very few people who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the measles virus. Even though measles has been essentially eliminated in the U.S., measles outbreaks still occur when the infection is brought into our country. This occurs when unvaccinated Americans or foreign visitors get measles while they’re abroad and then bring the disease back with them. It can also occur when children are not vaccinated. Even though the vaccine is made from a weakened live virus, you cannot get measles from the vaccine.

What is the measles vaccine schedule?

The CDC’s measles vaccine schedule for children is as follows:


 Schedule for measles vaccine      First dose  Second dose
 Children  Age 12–15 months      Age 4–6 years

Do adults need to get the measles vaccine?

You should get vaccinated if you were born during or after 1957 and have not been vaccinated or never had measles, don't know if you have been vaccinated or had measles, or don’t have other evidence of immunity. If you are going to be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, you should make sure you have had two doses of the measles vaccine separated by at least 28 days. Persons in high-risk settings include students in post-high school education, healthcare workers and those traveling internationally.

You do not need to get the measles vaccine if you were born before 1957 because it is presumed that the majority of people were infected with measles, mumps and rubella naturally and are presumed protected. People who were vaccinated from 1963–1967 with a killed measles vaccine should be revaccinated with a dose of live measles vaccine. You can get a blood test to determine if you have immunity.

Clinically reviewed and updated April 2023.

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