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What Worried Jewish Moms Can Do About the Measles Outbreak

Young Woman with Mental health problems

We’ve already established this, but here goes: There’s nothing Jewish about not vaccinating your kids.

But there is definitely something Jewish about worrying about our children’s health. Taking the right precautions against the measles helps protect our kids, as well as those who are vulnerable around us — love thy neighbor, people! — such as babies and the immunocompromised.

And while our worries about measles may mostly focus on our kids, the truth is that measles can be lethal to adults, too.

Here in the U.S., we are experiencing the biggest measles outbreak since the disease’s eradication in 2000, with over 700 cases recorded since the beginning of 2019. At the same time, the American outbreak is still milder than other measles epidemics around the world.

But measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to mankind, and we should take every precaution we can to prevent its spread and keep it from getting a foothold in the U.S. Here’s some advice about what we can do to make sure we are doing all that we can, courtesy of the CDC.

Before we start, I just want to make it clear that these tips are not substitutes actual medical advice. If you’re truly worried about the measles in your area, the best thing to do is to call your doctor or your pediatrician.

Do I need to vaccinate my kids?

Well, the simple answer to that question is: yes. Your kids need to get two doses of the measles vaccine. The first dose is at around 12 to 15 months, the second between ages 4 and 6. You can check what vaccines your child needs based on this vaccination schedule. There are a few reasons to delay the vaccine, or not get the vaccine, like an auto-immune condition or an illness, and you can read about them here.

What if my baby is too young to be vaccinated?

If you live in an area with a measles outbreak, or are about to travel overseas with your little one, you can vaccinate your baby as early as 6 months (before that, they are likely protected by antibodies they’ve gotten from you, which interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine). There’s absolutely no harm in vaccinating early, but your kid will still need to get two more doses of the vaccine at a later date. If your baby is younger than 6 months and you live in an outbreak area, you should consult with your doctor about how to keep them safe.

How long does it take for the vaccine to be effective?

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. You should only consider yourself or your kid immunized after those two weeks and should take whatever precautions needed to avoid exposure in that time.

How can I know if I’m immune to the measles?

If you were born before 1957, the assumption is that you are immune to the measles, according to the Immunization Action Coalition, because people born then lived through a few serious outbreaks. However, if you want to be safe, you can always check with your doctor. If you’ve had two doses of the measles vaccine, containing the live virus, you are also safe. If you’ve had one dose of the vaccine, and don’t live in a high-risk area, you can be pretty sure you’re safe and do not need a booster, according to the CDC.

If you’re not sure about your vaccination record, you can always get your immunity tested by your doctor. Its possible your doctor may suggest a booster shot, because there’s no harm in getting the vaccine again.

Can my kids get the second dose of the vaccine earlier?

If you live in an outbreak area or are traveling abroad, the answer is yes! You can get the second dose as early as 28 days after the first vaccine. Of course, you should call your doctor and check if it’s necessary.

Do I need a measles booster?

If you were born after 1957, and you received at least one dose of the measles vaccine as a child, you should have at least 93% immunity from measles, which means you’re fine. There is an exception: fewer than a million people in the U.S. who were vaccinated between 1963 and 1968 got a less effective form of the vaccine. So if you got your vaccine during those years, it’s worth getting a titer check for measles antibodies. Alternatively, you can just get another shot. Consult your doctor.

Also, if you were vaccinated before 1989, it’s likely that you’ve only gotten one dose of the MMR vaccine because, between 1968 and 1989, doctors only administered one shot. You may want to get checked for immunity or get a booster if you live in an area with an outbreak that is affecting adults, or you are about to travel abroad.

Should I get tested for measles immunity?

Ask your doctor. If your insurance covers it, and it will make you feel better, why not? However, the CDC considers you immune to measles if you’ve gotten at least one dose of the vaccine as a child.

Should my kids get tested for immunity to measles?

There’s no need to check your child for immunity, according to the CDC. If they’ve gotten two doses of the vaccine, they are immune. If they’ve got one dose and you’re worried about the measles, you can get a second dose early. Consult your doctor about what the right course of action is for you.

What are some other ways to protect my family from measles?

Vaccination is by far the most important step you can keep your family safe. Two doses of the measles vaccine are 97% effective against the measles, and those are some truly amazing odds.

What should I do if I or my kids get exposed to measles?

Call your doctor! Don’t go to their office right away — in case you have the measles, you do not want to infect others. Make arrangements to come in and get tested for the disease since symptoms don’t necessarily show up right away. If you or your kids aren’t immune, you can get an emergency MMR vaccine or immune globulin (a dose of antibodies).

If you do have the disease, you will need to sequester yourself and keep away from public spaces for at least four days after your rash disappears. You should talk to your doctor about when it is OK for you to go outside again.

What are some other ways I can help to fight the measles outbreak?

Making sure you and your kids are vaccinated is the most important thing you can do, as well as reminding your loved ones to get vaccinated.

 

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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