Though most US babies and preschool-age children are eligible to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine before traveling abroad, nearly 60% weren’t vaccinated before departing, revealing missed opportunities by doctors, a research team based at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported yesterday.

Since measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, outbreaks have been linked to people who contracted the virus in other countries, half of them in US residents returning home.

The United States has reported 1,276 cases so far this year, the most since 1992, with the majority of illnesses linked to a few large outbreaks triggered by international travelers. Some of the outbreaks lasted several months, which threatened the nation’s measles elimination status.

Though children make up only 10% of US international travelers, they account for nearly half of imported measles cases. Recognizing the risk of infection that young unvaccinated travelers face and their outsized threat of spreading the disease once they arrive home, special MMR recommendations for young international travelers have been in place since 1989.

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Researchers uncover vaccination gaps

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