Can you still get measles if you’re vaccinated?

Mother and child at doctor's office.

This article appeared on Click On Detroit. Read more here.

Michigan health officials are encouraging residents to make sure they’re vaccinated against measles.

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread by direct person-to-person contact and through the air. Measles is included in the MMR vaccine, which is usually given in childhood and protects people against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Just last month, Michigan reported its first case of measles since the 2019 outbreak. On Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, Michigan health officials said that a child in Oakland County has measles. The child’s case is believed to be linked to international travel and officials do not believe anyone outside of the child’s home was exposed to the virus.

On Sunday, March 3, 2024, Wayne County health officials reported the state’s second case of measles. The case is linked to international travel in an adult and is not connected to the Oakland County case. Later that day, Washtenaw County reported the state’s third case of measles.

“If you are not vaccinated for measles, get vaccinated as quickly as you can,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “We are seeing increased cases of measles abroad and outbreaks of measles across the United States in the setting of declining childhood vaccination rates. Now measles is in Michigan, and it’s important to make sure you protect yourself from this vaccine-preventable disease.”

The measles virus can live for up to two hours in the air where an infected person was present. Health officials said that 90% of unvaccinated people who are exposed to measles will become infected. About one in five people who get measles will be hospitalized.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The first symptoms of measles usually show up seven to 14 days after exposure, but they can take as long as 21 days to appear.

Symptoms include:

  • High fever (may spike to over 104˚F).
  • Cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).


Two to three days after the initial symptoms begin, Koplik spots may appear inside the mouth. These are tiny white spots that show up on the inner cheeks, gums, and roof of the mouth.

Three to five days after symptoms begin, the measles rash may appear. This is a rash that is red, raised, and blotchy. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

If you think you have measles, you should call the doctor’s office or the emergency room before you go there so they can prevent the virus from spreading.

What is the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is a weakened live virus vaccine. The weakened virus causes a harmless infection with very few, if any, symptoms. The person’s immune system learns how to fight these viruses, creating immunity.

There are two MMR vaccines available in the United States, M-M-R II and PRIORIX. There is also a MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). The MMRV vaccine is only to be used in children who are 12 months through 12 years old.

Does the MMR vaccine work?

The MMR vaccine is considered very effective and safe.

People who were vaccinated according to the U.S. vaccination schedule are considered protected for life against measles and rubella. Immunity against mumps may decrease over time and another dose may be recommended during a mumps outbreak.

About three out of 100 people who get two doses of the MMR vaccine will get measles if they are exposed.

  • One dose of MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella.
  • Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles and 88% effective against mumps.


Some people who get two doses of the MMR vaccine still get measles, mumps, or rubella if they are exposed. Experts aren’t sure why this happens, but it is believed that their immune systems didn’t respond as well as they should have or their immune system’s ability to fight the infection decreased over time. Symptoms are usually milder in vaccinated people.

Who should get the MMR vaccine?

The vaccine is usually given in childhood, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at four to six years of age. Children can receive the vaccine earlier as long as the second dose is given at least 28 days after the first dose.

People who have “presumptive evidence of immunity” do not need to get vaccinated unless there is a mumps outbreak. During a mumps outbreak, health officials may recommend another dose of the MMR vaccine for people who are at risk of getting mumps.

The CDC said a person has presumptive immunity if they have written documentation proving they were vaccinated, laboratory tests confirming past infection, or if they were born before 1957. Before vaccines were available, nearly everyone was infected with measles, mumps, and rubella viruses during childhood. The majority of people born before 1957 were likely infected naturally.

Adults who do not have presumptive evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Adults who are students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, or travel internationally, should get two doses.

More information about who should get the vaccine is available at cdc.gov/vaccines.

Who should not get the MMR vaccine?

Some people with weakened immune systems may not be able to receive the measles vaccine. So, when people eligible get vaccinated they are also helping to protect vulnerable people from being exposed to the illness.

The following people should not get the MMR vaccine or should wait, according to the CDC:

  • Has any severe, life-threatening allergies. A person who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of MMR vaccine, or has a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, may be advised not to be vaccinated. Ask your health care provider if you want information about vaccine components.
  • Is pregnant or thinks she might be pregnant. Pregnant women should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they are no longer pregnant. Women should avoid getting pregnant for at least 1 month after getting MMR vaccine.
  • Has a weakened immune system due to disease (such as cancer or HIV/AIDS) or medical treatments (such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy).
  • Has a parent, brother, or sister with a history of immune system problems.
  • Has ever had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily.
  • Has recently had a blood transfusion or received other blood products. You might be advised to postpone MMR vaccination for 3 months or more.
  • Has tuberculosis.
  • Has gotten any other vaccines in the past 4 weeks. Live vaccines given too close together might not work as well.
    Is not feeling well. A mild illness, such as a cold, is usually not a reason to postpone a vaccination. Someone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait. Your doctor can advise you.
How can you check your vaccination status?

People who have been vaccinated in Michigan can check the immunization portal at mdhhsmiimmsportal.state.mi.us to see if their records are available.

To get your record, you must be 18 years of age or older and have or create a MiLogin account. You will have to upload an image of either your US passport, driver’s license, or state ID.

Where can you get the measles vaccine?

People looking to get the measles vaccine can contact their doctor or their local health department for more information. You can find contact information for your local health department at michigan.gov/mdhhs.

If you don’t have insurance or your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program might be able to help pay for the vaccines.

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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

As parents, determining how best to protect our children can be overwhelming and confusing. We’re here to help.

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