Updates on the Measles Vaccine and International Travel

In recent months, we have fielded  calls from families regarding the current global measles outbreak.  Fortunately, while a small number of cases have been identified in the  Chicagoland area, it has not risen to the threshold to be considered a local outbreak.  

As academic pediatricians affiliated with Lurie Children’s, we receive frequent communications from local public health experts and will be ready to notify patients and modify our immunization strategies as needed.  Right now, routine immunization with measles-containing vaccine at 12-15 months (most commonly with MMR) and again at 4-6 years old (most commonly with MMRV) remains the standard practice.

The story is different, however, for children who will be traveling internationally starting in June 2019.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel notice related to the global measles outbreak that all travelers to European countries should be up-to-date with their measles vaccination. In practice, this means if you are planning any international travel you should talk with your child’s pediatrician. 

While it should be considered on a case by case basis, the routine immunization schedule may be updated to include an early dose of MMR for infants as young as 6 months old.  Although the vaccine is safe to administer to infants this young, it is less likely to be effective over a child’s entire lifespan due to the low-level persistence of maternal antibodies to measles still present in the infant’s bloodstream, which was transferred while baby was in utero.  Because the vaccine is less effective when given between 6-12 months, the infant will still need to complete an additional two doses given no earlier than the first birthday.

The travel notice also affects children who are at least 12 months old who have received one lifetime dose of measles-containing vaccine; these children need to receive a second dose in advance of any planned international travel that is given at least 28 days after the first dose.

The details and logistics of travel vaccination can seem complicated and the child’s age and prior immunization history needs to be considered; it is best to reach out to your doctor prior to any international travel for children of all ages as travel immunization guidelines are continually updated.  In addition, the CDC website contains a drop-down menu of all countries and immunizations that should be given or considered in advance of travel: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list 

At North Suburban Pediatrics, many of these travel immunizations are stocked for routine administration or may be special ordered.  We remain committed to protecting your children from vaccine-preventable illnesses to the best of our abilities and hope that after the immunization question is answered, the biggest question you have is deciding how many pairs of underwear you need to pack for your kids!


Written by Dr. Ben Kornfeld