Seven million adults over 40 will have to be vaccinated against measles in Spain: what we know about the problem
In the past few days, adult vaccines have come to the fore. While the Spanish Society of Epidemiology announced that it was going to recommend vaccinating measles to Spaniards between 40 and 50 years old, the Ministry of Health confirmed that it was preparing a vaccination plan for adults born between 1970 and 1980.
But why now? And why precisely that generation? Wasn't Spain "free of measles"? How do we know if we have to get vaccinated? This is what you need to know to understand everything related to measles and adult vaccines.
What about measles?
Spain, since 2016, is a country free ("of endemic transmission") of measles. That does not mean that there has been no case (so far in 2019, for example, Health has detected 233), but that the virus is controlled and has no way of creating a major outbreak. However, as the UK has shown, as soon as a country lets its guard down, measles strikes back.
Furthermore, the circumstances are very conducive to measles getting out of control. According to the World Health Organization, in the first seven months of 2019, 364,808 cases of the disease have been identified worldwide. That is three times more than there was during the same period in 2018. The consequences are clear, four countries around us (United Kingdom, Albania, Czech Republic and Greece) have lost the status of being "free" from the virus.
The most effective way to keep the virus under control is to have high vaccination rates to ensure group immunity. In Spain, that has not been a big problem. Since the 1980s, the vaccination schedule includes immunization against MMR (for measles, rubella, and mumps) for all those born in the country.
However, for years, we know that the weakest part of the system was elsewhere. If we look at the data, the outbreaks of this disease that occur in Spain affect, above all, those born between 1970 and 1980.
Who? How? Why?
Who is the notice being released to? Despite the confusion these days, the Health recommendation is now clear: people who are between 40 and 50 years old and who did not receive the two doses of the vaccine or have not passed measles should go to their health center and get vaccinated when the Ministry plan begins.
Why the people who were born in the 70s? The rationale is that just during that decade the circulation of the measles virus was reduced in response to the first measures to combat it. This has led to an enormous number of people who, unlike those born before 1970, were not in contact with the virus of children and, unlike those born after 1981, they were not vaccinated correctly. That generation is not immunized against the measles virus.
How do you know if you are vaccinated? In this context, it can be difficult to know, 40 years later, if someone was properly immunized against measles or not. In these cases, there are two options: either a serology is performed (to see if the body has had contact with the virus) or the person is vaccinated directly.
What do I have to do if I'm in that group? Nothing yet. The ministry is working on a plan to reach what is estimated to be up to seven million people, but has not yet released the details. We must remember that we are not facing a medical emergency, but rather a preventive measure to prepare ourselves against measles. As confirmed by executive sources, in the coming months and in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities, all the details of the vaccination plan will appear.
What happens if I don't vaccinate? Not getting vaccinated has two great consequences: the first is to expose yourself to a contagious disease that, in adults, can be very dangerous; The second is that we are putting our family, friends and neighbors at risk.
Measles is a very contagious disease and there are people who due to health problems will not be able to get vaccinated. If we do not guarantee group immunity, we are exposing the weakest to the consequences of an uncontrolled outbreak.