Do Adults Need a Measles Titer Check?
As measles exposure makes headlines across the nation and right here on the South Shore, adults are questioning whether or not they’re truly immune to the disease. Many are pretty sure they’ve had their measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, but they want to be sure they’re unlikely to catch this incredibly contagious—and life-threatening—disease.
As concern about the prevalence of measles grows, you may have seen news articles and social media posts encouraging adults to “get their titers checked” to ensure immunity.
Titers identify the amount of antibodies in a person’s blood. It’s done through a blood test. Many colleges, universities, and healthcare organizations require new students or employees prove they’re immune to measles to prevent a risk to public health. But does an average adult need this test?
In my opinion, it’s best to skip the titers and get another dose of the MMR vaccine if you have any concern about your immunity to measles.
It’s a hassle: Let’s say you call your primary care provider and ask for a titer check. You have to take time out of your day to visit the lab, get the blood work, and wait for results. If the test finds you’re not immune, you’ll have to go back to the doctor’s office to get the vaccine. Skip a few steps and go straight to the shot.
It’s costly: Depending on your insurance, you may have copays for the blood work and two doctor’s appointments. It also drives up health care costs for all patients when people use more services than necessary. Just go straight to the vaccine.
Titers may not be totally accurate: The titer test was developed based on the level of measles antibodies in the blood of patients who’d been exposed to measles naturally—by being exposed to the disease itself. It’s less sensitive for detecting post-immunization antibody response, so you may get a lower reading, even though you are likely immune.
Getting another dose won’t hurt you: Getting an MMR vaccine won’t cause harm to most patients, even if he or she has sufficient antibodies to prevent measles infection. Obviously, before choosing to get any vaccine, you will have a conversation with your provider about any potential health risks.
The best course of action to ensure adult immunity to measles is to check your medical records if at all possible. If you received the MMR vaccine as a child, you should be fine. Most people born before 1957 are considered immune due to measles exposure, exceptions to this include healthcare workers, international travelers, and students in post-high school programs.
But as measles cases become more frequent, it’s a good idea for everyone to check in with their primary care provider to confirm they’re immune to the virus.