Ask the experts
I'm traveling overseas for work for more than a month. I'm updating all my immunizations, but I can't seem to find the paperwork on my measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Should I get a booster? What is the schedule for MMR vaccination?
The MMR vaccine contains vaccines against the diseases measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). These are all dangerous and potentially fatal diseases that have been successfully limited in the United States through aggressive vaccine programs. Adolescents and adults who have not received the MMR or MMRV (MMR, plus the varicella vaccine) should receive two doses of the vaccine at least one month apart. People who do not have medical documentation of having had the diseases or cannot prove previous vaccination should have titers (blood tests to check levels of immunity) drawn to make sure they are immune to these agents. If they do not have laboratory evidence of immunity, they should receive a two-dose series of vaccine.
Vaccine-preventable diseases are those diseases for which there is a shot that helps the immune system prepare for an infection. A person develops immunity after he or she has received a vaccine and responded to it. When a vaccinated person is exposed to a virus (for example, hepatitis B) or bacteria (for example, diphtheria), his or her body is able to destroy the virus or bacteria and prevent the disease. No vaccine is perfect, and some people who receive a vaccine can still get the disease. This is why it is important for everyone to get the vaccine. This gives the community what experts call "herd" immunity and means that, basically, there are very few people who could serve as a reservoir for the disease. Herd immunity prevents severe outbreaks of diseases.
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