Get protected against measles

by | November 14, 2019

This highly contagious disease can lead to health complications and even death in adults.


Every year, at least 45,000 adults in the US die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Besides an influenza vaccine, another vaccine to consider is one against measles. Measles is a highly contagious disease that can lead to health complications or even death in adults.

Singapore being a densely-populated country and an international travel hub makes it highly susceptible to outbreaks of such an infectious disease. The country had 132 confirmed cases of measles as of August 10, 2019. That is almost five times more compared to the same time period in 2018, and one-quarter of the measles cases were imported from other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. As of July 23, 2019, there have been no deaths reported this year, arising from the notified cases of measles.

Ageless Online finds out more about measles and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine from Dr Melvin Seng, an occupational medicine specialist:


In the US, those born prior to 1957 are considered immune to measles because almost everyone in that age group was exposed to the virus before a vaccine was available. Also, those born after 1957 who were properly vaccinated, or who have contracted measles are also protected. Does this apply here in Singapore and that those neither vaccinated nor had measles, should get a dose of the MMR vaccine?

In the 1960s and 1970s, there were measles epidemics in Singapore which affected many children. Those who were infected would have developed an immunity against future measles infection. Measles vaccination was introduced from October 1976 and made compulsory in August 1985 for children ages one to two years.

Measles is almost entirely preventable with two doses of measles vaccine. Thus, those who were neither vaccinated nor had measles should complete the two-dose MMR vaccine.


How effective is the vaccine?

A completion of two doses is about 97 percent effective for immunity against measles.


When does one take the second dose?

The two doses are given one month apart. With the completion of the two doses of MMR vaccine, one is protected against measles for life.


What happens if people can’t remember if they got vaccinated or whether they got measles before, should they still get vaccinated?

You may check your health records, such as the health booklet. You can also check with your doctor as they have access to the national immunisation registry where they can check on your vaccination status. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should get vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Adults can get another dose of MMR vaccine even if they may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).

Another option is to have a doctor test your blood through a measles-specific antibody test to determine whether you’re immune, but this is generally not recommended. The MMR vaccine is safe, and there is no harm in getting another dose if you are already immune to measles, mumps or rubella. Have a discussion with your doctor whether testing is required.


Why do seniors need the vaccine?

The measles virus spreads easily through direct contact with the saliva or mucus of an infected child or adult, whether through coughing, sneezing or contact with contaminated surfaces. Most patients recover completely from measles. However, the infection can lead to an ear infection and pneumonia in older individuals.


What happens when one has measles and mumps?

Early symptoms include coughing, a runny or stuffy nose, malaise, red eyes, tearing and a fever. However, the infection can lead to common complications such as ear infections and diarrhoea. Serious complications include pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).


Are there seniors who should not have the vaccine such as those with illness, etc?

Those who have a history of allergy or have a known severe medical condition resulting in a weakened immune system should check with their doctor before getting immunised.


What are the risks and side effects of the vaccine?

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. Common side effects are sore arm from the shot, fever or a mild rash. These reactions are generally mild, transient and resolve within a few days.


How much does the vaccine cost?

Costs may vary depending on the healthcare institution you visit. But you may use up to S$500 of your Medisave account per year to pay for these mandatory jabs for yourself or your immediate family members.




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