Answers to questions about measles vaccine

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Hearing about the measles outbreak, Stacey Baldwin is glad that protection is moments away for her son, Samuel.

"It's fortunate for us, God's been watching over us that he's getting it today," Baldwin said.

The first MMR or measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is recommended at 12 to 15 months.  It's not recommended earlier because babies may carry antibodies from their mothers that prevent the vaccine from working as well as it does later.  A dose can be given at six months in high risk situations.

"One of which is outbreaks so I don't know what will happen with recommendations from the CDC during this particular measles outbreak," said Dr. Jennifer Mellick of Pediatric Partners.

Samuel is getting his first dose at 16 months because his mother wanted to spread out his vaccines.  It's something that Pediatric Partners no longer allows.   Dr. Mellick says the vaccine schedule is well-studied, and there's no risk from getting many vaccines at once.

"There's no reason to spread them out. Just causes more trauma for the child," said the pediatrician.

The second MMR dose is given when children are 4 to 6 years old.  It's aimed at catching the two to five percent of kids who didn't get protection with the first dose.

"So when given in two doses, this vaccine is more than 99 percent effective," said Dr. Mellick.

She says if you don't know whether you've had measles or the vaccine, there's no harm in getting a dose.  There is a blood test that can tell, but it's cheaper and easier just to get the shot.

There is live virus in the vaccine.  It's attenuated or weakened virus.

"It induces a low level infection that is not able to be transmitted to anyone with a normal immune system," said Dr. Mellick.

She added, "It is a safe vaccination."

Children may have a low fever and a mild rash after the shot, but won't get measles from the vaccine.