Text Size:

What is the History of Measles Vaccine in America and Other Countries?

History of measles vaccine in America and other countries

Two measles vaccines were first licensed in 1963. One was a live attenuated vaccine and the other was an inactivated (killed) virus vaccine, which was withdrawn in 1967 due to lack of effectiveness and an increased risk for atypical measles. The other vaccine was withdrawn in 1975 because of a relatively high frequency of fever and rash reactions.

In 1973, Merck’s further attenuated combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine was licensed and, as of July 2012, it is the only measles-containing vaccine available in the U.S.1

In the summer and fall of 2014, the CDC published annual reports confirming American school children continue to have a very high vaccination rate for two doses of MMR vaccine. 2, 3 In the 2013-2014 school year, 95% of children entering kindergarten had gotten two MMR shots and so had more than 92% of school children between the ages of 13 and 17. About 1.8% of kindergarten children have a medical or personal belief exemption to vaccination on file with schools.

In addition, in 2013 about 92% of children under age three had gotten at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Less than 1% of very young children are unvaccinated. 4

In short, 92% to 95% of the approximately 75 million children under age 185 have gotten one or two doses of MMR vaccine and there is also a high measles vaccination rate among young adults in their 20’s and mid-30’s. Since 1981, 95% of all children entering kindergarten have received at least one dose of MMR vaccine and three or more doses of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio containing vaccines.6

After 17 years of giving American children measles vaccine, in 1980 there were only 13,500 reported measles cases and 11 related deaths.7 But in 1990, about 28,000 measles cases and 64 deaths were reported in a population in which 95% of children entering kindergarten had gotten one MMR shot that public health officials had promised parents would give their children life long immunity to measles.8

In 1989, the CDC added a second MMR shot to the child vaccine schedule and, by 2005, there were only 66 cases of measles reported.9 However, in 2008 and 2011, there were a total of 362 reported measles cases, even as there were no deaths.10

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Measles and the Measles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

« Return to Vaccines & Diseases Table of Contents


1 CDC.gov. Vaccines. Measles. The Pink Book. No date. 
5 U.S. Census Bureau. 2010 Census Shows Nation’s Population is Aging. Press Release May 26, 2011. 
6 Hinman AR, Orenstein WA Schuchat A. Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Immunization and MMWR 1961-2011. MMWR 2011; 60(04): 49-57 
7 CDC. Summary of Notifiable Diseases, United States, 1993. MMWR Oct. 21, 1994; 42(53): 1-73. 
8 Wood DJ, Brunell PA. Measles Control in the United States: Problems of the Past and Challenges for the Future. Clin Microbiol Rev 1995; 8(2): 260-267. 
9 CDC. Measles – United States, 2005. MMWR Dec. 22, 2006; 55(50): 1348-1351. 
10 CDC. Measles – United States, January 1 – August 24, 2013.. MMWR Sept. 13, 2013; 62(36): 741-743. 

Make a Difference Support NVIC

NVIC is 100% funded by donations.
Please give.

Help educate families about preventing vaccine injury and death by donating to NVIC today.

Discover How You Can Take Action to Support Our Efforts

Support NVIC!

Connect with us!

  • NVIC Pinterest
  • NVIC Facebook
  • NVIC Twitter
  • NVIC Youtube
  • NVIC Instagram

Ask 8 Kiosk & Educational Marketplace

Ask 8 Questions

Visit our Ask 8 Kiosk to explore a variety of FREE educational materials, from posters and brochures to embeddable web graphics and other resources.

View FREE Downloads